In their limited spare time, students in the Pre-Med and Med classes at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar have shifted the focus of attention to improving the lives of campus assistants and cleaners by providing computer training and basic English language tuition classes as part of the Reach out to Asia (ROTA) program.
And, the turnout has been impressive with large numbers of workers turning up for the free tuition. “We have been a bit overwhelmed by the response,” associate professor of English in Pre-Medical Dr. Rodney Sharkey said. “But we have managed to accommodate all the people who were interested in learning computers and improving their English skills. Next semester we are hoping to make even more places available for those interested and we will also be starting classes for the cleaners who work in the Student Center.
“For many of these migrant workers, it is a major battle to improve their English skills. They are keen to learn because it is a great asset in their daily lives,” he said.
The group of computer learners and English students gathered on campus last week [May 2013] for the end-of-program celebrations where lunch was served and certificates of completion awarded. Prizes were also awarded for enthusiasm and outstanding performance in the program. Participants voted for Inesh Kumar, from Sri Lanka, who works as a cleaner in the WCMC-Q storeroom. Inesh won the major prize for putting in the best effort and he was delighted with his new iPad.
Pre-Med student Aisha Khalid is President of the WCMC-Q ROTA Teaching Club and she handed out the certificates and prizes. “This has been such a wonderful opportunity for all of us as students to do something meaningful and helpful for others. Together with my fellow students, we were all very happy to be involved in this program. It means so much to the workers and it will increase not only their work skills and job opportunities but it will also contribute to the improvement of their lives,” Aisha said.
Gita Bhandari, a cleaner at WCMC-Q, who left Nepal for a better life in Qatar more than two years ago but with a limited grasp of English language skills, said she was very happy that she could benefit from the program and improve her English. “It is very important to be able to speak English properly. It makes my life easier and I can now express myself a lot better,” she said. Gita was awarded a certificate of completion and hopes to continue with the program next semester.
Gary Rabang, from the Philippines, who has been working as an office assistant at WCMC-Q for nearly two years, completed a course in Photoshop and is now looking forward to attempting the advanced course next year. “This was such a good idea. It gives us an extra skill and it is all for free,” Gary said.
Dr. Sharkey said the programs brought double benefits with both the students interacting with the workers and learning new communication skills and for the workers who are benefitting by interacting with the students and improving both their life skills and language usage. “There are winners on both sides and we are all very happy that our Reach out to Asia program (ROTA) has had such great impact so far. Thanks also go to Thomas Rooney in Facilities for helping us set up the running of the program.”