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Language lessons: Labourer's school

For one French woman and a couple of others, Friday mornings is time to play English and Arabic tutors

Image Credit: © XPRESS / Virendra Saklani
Haseena Sakhri, right and a volunteer teaching labourers at a labour camp in Al Quoz

Dubai: Friday mornings for most is best spent in bed or lazing around the house.

But for one French woman and a couple of others, it's time to play English and Arabic tutors. Their students: a group of 50 Asian labourers at a nondescript labour camp in Al Quoz.

By 10.30am every Friday, Haseena Sakhri and at least two other volunteers are at the camp where eager labourers get to choose the lesson of the day. It could be the basic alphabet, a set of words and phrases on a specific topic or general conversation skills, but they are all covered in a fun way.

"We use different methods to overcome the language barrier," said Sakhri. For example, one class employed art where labourers literally drew attention to what they wanted to learn. In another class, a world map was used to trace their countries of origin, a process that helped brush up their geography while mastering key translations in English and Arabic.

"Today, we learnt about body parts and learnt a lot," said Bangladeshi Yousuf Ali who attended the class last Friday.

"We do not follow a fixed format so that the labourers feel more motivated to learn," said Sakhri. In fact, the volunteers even introduced dance classes on the request of some labourers.

"We have Colombian dancer Vivian Rojos who comes in to teach them contemporary dance and they just love it," said Sakhri, a post-graduate in music and arts and a professional photographer.

Making an appeal for more people to come forward, Sakhri said they were short of volunteers. "We all go to swanky malls with designer showrooms. The labour camps exist side by side. We can either ignore them or do something about it," she said, adding that it was on New Year's eve that she decided to take the other path.

"I told myself I could party or make a small difference to someone's life," she said.

Little wonder then that one labourer at the camp calls her ‘Happy New Year'.


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How can we contact Sakhri? I would love to volunteer. I am currently working with Global Youth Empowering Movement (GYEM) in Dubai and have small projects for labour camps. However, we have not been able to execute these projects yet.


16 April 2011 17:08jump to comments