Dr. Dalip Singh Gill
Dr. Dalip Singh Gill, a well known educationist and visionary in the Indo-Canadian Community was born on January 10, 1928 in a family of agriculturalists that lived in a small village called Nathu Wala Jadid in Moga District, Punjab. In this area he did not have many opportunities for education, but because of his thirst for it even as a child, and with his parents’ unflinching support, he managed to complete matriculation by attending four different, distantly located schools. Impressed by his distinct skills and love for education, the headmaster at Bhupindra Khalsa High School appointed him as an elementary teacher at a mere age of 16.
Dalip Singh Gill still longed for higher education, and two years later he left for Lahore for his university studies. During the daytime he worked as a clerk in the Punjab Civil Supplies Department, and in the evening, attended college for his higher education. However, owing to the 1947 partition of India & Pakistan, he had to leave his University studies in between and flee to the now formed India. However, on the situation stabilizing, he continued to finish his University studies, earning his B.A & B.T degrees. He worked for 11 years in the Department of Education eventually becoming the District Education Officer in 1973. His quest for education insatiable throughout his life, Dr. Dalip Singh Gill combined studies, work, and family responsibilities and attained an impressive string of three Masters degrees – M.A. in Punjabi & M.A. in Political Science in 1953 from Punjab University and then M.A. in Education from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla.
When in 1985, Gill’s mother and father passed away, he saw little purpose in remaining in India and immigrated to Canada. He travelled extensively in Canada to find that young Indo-Canadians lacked the opportunity to learn about their own heritage and many were ignorant about their own background. Families also felt that their children were losing out on having their own cultural identity. They also wanted to address the cross generational language barrier that was being created between parents or grandparents and their children due to language barriers. This prompted Dalip Singh to undertake the uphill task to get support to build one school with the purpose of providing children with quality education under the Canadian curriculum along with teaching them about their Sikh heritage, culture and language. This is what marked the birth of Damesh Punjabi School. On the very first day, Dr. Gill was surprised to see 80 students register, and along with the Khalsa Diwan Society, Dasmesh Punjabi Educational Association was formed.
Because of the efforts of Dalip Singh Gill and his supporters who established Dasmesh Punjabi School, it helped to lay the groundwork for other similar schools to follow suit. Though Dasmesh Punjabi School was the first Punjabi independent school in North America, shortly after its opening in 1983 a second and unrelated Punjabi school was also opened in Vancouver. Today, there are at least 10 independent schools in British Columbia which have a focus of preserving and teaching the Punjabi language and religion, along with the prescribed subjects approved by the Ministry of Education. In Honor of his amazing achievements, the University of the Fraser Valley and its then President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Skip Bassford awarded Dalip Singh Gill with an honorary Doctorate of Letters (D.Litt) at its 2009 Convocation proceedings and ceremonies. Dr. Gill gave a wonderful speech as it was certainly an achievement beyond warrant.