Hindu centre embraces two cultures

By Simon Collins

Twice a week, the 52 pupils at Mangere's new Global Indian International School sing two national anthems in three languages.

First, they sing God Defend New Zealand in Maori and English, then Jana Gana Mana (The Minds of the People), the Indian national anthem.

It's the kind of accommodation to three cultures that New Zealand's 65,000 Hindus have to make every day.

About 150 of them are meeting at Mangere this weekend in what is billed as the first New Zealand Hindu conference to discuss how to sustain their culture in their new land.

The community has grown dramatically from 0.3 per cent of the population in 1986 to 1.6 per cent in last year's Census.

Prime Minister Helen Clark will open the conference this morning in a 3.35ha complex that was originally a psychopaedic hospital and was bought by the Hindu Heritage Trust from the financially struggling Te Wananga o Aotearoa last year.

The Singapore-based Global Indian School, which also has campuses in Japan, Malaysia and Thailand, opened its first Australasian campus on part of the site in February and is open to students of all religions.

Its pupils' parents pay between $6000 and $7500 a year fees for each child.

The trust plans to use the rest of the site for social services, a preschool, Hindu radio and television stations and a $3 million recreation centre that will host youth activities at night and support for the elderly during the day.

"It will be like a daycare centre for the elderly," said Vinod Kumar, manager of the Mitre 10 Mega store in Henderson and president of the Hindu Council.

He bought the Mangere complex, valued at $7.5 million, for the community, and chairs the trust.

"Most of the parents stay with their families and feel lonely," he said. "Their children will now be able to drop their parents there and they could do lots of things.

"We also want to create an indoor sports arena for the youth, so instead of kids getting into trouble they will be able to go there."

The council's general secretary, Rotorua forestry scientist Guna Magesan, said a new social services trust would provide the kind of services that church social service agencies provided for Christians.

"In India, the temples are like social and cultural centres but, for some reason, a similar thing has not happened in other countries," he said.

"One of the reasons could be that we are all immigrants; everybody is busy working. Once they are settled and retire, the elderly people can put more time into that [social] side. We want things to happen before that. We should make a step now."

Social worker Shridara Mysore said Indian migrants wanted to continue practising their own culture and wanted their children to do so too, while also succeeding in New Zealand.

"Children go through a tremendous pressure to assimilate," he said.

"So, on one side, we want to keepan open mind to allow all the wonderful things [from NZ culture] to comein and, at the same time, preserving what we have here so the futuregenerations do not remain Hinduor Indian just by name."

Fifty-two students attend the global school, and 80 more attend the country's only other Hindu school, the Hare Krishna School at Riverhead, West Auckland.

Both are primary schools, but they plan to expand to secondary level from next year.

The Hare Krishna School has been integrated, with full state funding, since 1992. Principal Prana Dasa said the local curriculum provided a flexible framework which enabled the school to use Hindu texts to teach English and other subjects and to start each day with religious studies and devotional singing.

The global school is private and follows the Indian and Cambridge curriculums so its pupils can transfer easily to other sister schools if their parents move countries. It has 10 fulltime teachers with just five to seven students in each class.

Correction:

The Global Indian International School in Mangere is a secular school open to students of all religions, and is not Hindu as reported on Saturday.

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