By Tayiba Ahmed
Education is the premise of progress and creates possibilities that one might not otherwise have. To be able to arm someone with that knowledge and education, and help better their future, is a tremendous deed and can be greatly self-fulfilling. To know that you have contributed to someone’s life in such a significant manner must feel so gratifying. The English classes being offered to Cleanco employees at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) is one such effort being made to contribute towards the community.
Some AUS faculty and staff members are teaching English classes for these workers, who provide the essential cleaning services for the university. The idea is a brainchild of Cindy Baker, Senior Instructor in Management at the School of Business Administration (SBA); Somia Anwar, adjunct faculty member at SBA; Jessica March, Acting Director and Senior Instructor at the AUS Achievement Academy; and Dr. Jeannette Vinke, AUS Chief Operating Officer, who also teach these classes for Cleanco employees. The classes help to expand the ability of the workers at AUS to communicate with others in English.
“As faculty members who live here and work here, it is important for us to be able to give back to the community, and not just be recipients of everything,” said Baker.
“The reason the institution is able to function effectively on a day-to-day basis is partly because of the Cleanco employees, who work relentlessly to prepare the facilities for daily use after we are done with our classes and work. It is essential that we, who benefit from their services, give back to them. There is also a need and opportunity to teach these workers the English language in order enhance their communication skills and make it easier for them to communicate effectively with the members of the AUS community. This is the reason some of the faculty and staff members at AUS thought of the idea to provide these classes for the workers,” Baker continued.
The program started in Fall 2015, about a month after the idea was conceived. It started small but as time passed and word about it spread, the group of people involved in the program, both participants and volunteers, increased. The program began with just a group of four volunteers but now has 12. Anyone at AUS who wishes to be a part of the program and give back to the community can volunteer to teach the classes.
According to Baker, since the program requires only one hour of volunteering a week, it is a simple commitment that anyone would be able to make. “We’re always looking for volunteers and creative ideas on how best to teach,” she said.
When the classes initially began, they were offered only to Cleanco employees. The program then coordinated with the Faculty Development Center at AUS and now includes security guards, maids working in the AUS housing facilities and office workers. The workers can either volunteer to take the classes, or can be recommended by their employers. So far, 52 of the 160 Cleanco employees at AUS have gone through the program, which is also why the program was expanded.
The classes are offered once every semester with 10 sessions for each class, held on Saturdays, and are an hour long. Although for now the classes focus on spoken English, the volunteers aim to offer more advanced classes in the future and expand the program to include writing and reading classes.
At the end of the classes, participants are invited to a graduation ceremony, and certificates of participation are presented to each participant.
Tayiba Ahmed is a student at American University of Sharjah.
Visit www.aus.edu for more information about American University of Sharjah.