Part of the Mewat Rural Vocational Programme, Teach India – Spoken English Training Programme is a collaboration between SRF Foundation and The Times of India. By equipping the underprivileged youth of Mewat with spoken English skills, the initiative aims to build their capabilities for sustainable livelihoods and empower them to lead better lives. A job fair is organised to provide successful candidates with access to opportunities, by facilitating their job placement with major firms in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors. To date, 293 youth have successfully completed the programme, with the 6th batch inaugurated in May 2013.
Despite recently completing a diploma in Civil Engineering at a government college, Mr. Girdhari Chauhan ultimately decided to pursue his passion for teaching, telling us, “Deep inside my heart, I wanted to work for the betterment of students from my local area, Mewat”. Though it has been just a month into his teaching stint, the 24-year-old Teach India instructor is enjoying the job so immensely he knows he has made the right choice, declaring firmly, “If [SRF Foundation and The Times of India] are planning to organise Teach India programmes for the next 5 years, then I will be available for the next 5 years.”
Born and bred in Mewat, Mr. Chauhan understands the unique challenges that his students face in coming from a rural and vulnerably-developed area with low literacy. He tells us that despite his students having completed their higher secondary education, their English ability was comparable to that of Class 3 or 4 students in metropolitan cities. Mr. Chauhan shares that his students also initially had a ‘phobia’ of studying English. “The biggest challenge is to keep the students involved in this course, to keep their morale up, keep them hopeful and make them realise [that] yes they can do it… and yes they can improve themselves.” He adds that thanks to the effective curriculum designed by the British Council, his students have learnt a lot in the past month and are beginning to realise that learning English is not that difficult.
The hardworking instructor gives weaker students extra tutoring before and after classes, taking time out from his lunch hour to do so, and even calling them at home to personally encourage them. He tries to maintain a personal rapport with each and every student so that they are comfortable in his class and feel like there is someone taking care of them.
The curriculum covers 6 modules and an additional module, “Face the World” which prepares the youth for job interviews. After completing the 100-day course, learners will be able to apply for various jobs such as Customer Service Representatives, Receptionists and Sales Assistants within the hospitality sector. The Times of India would organize job fairs providing employment opportunities for the newly trained youth.
Mr. Chauhan shares that their determination motivates him, saying, “Their knowledge of English is not very good, but they want to improve themselves. It’s a good thing, which inspires me to work hard too.” He hopes that after completing the Teach India programme, his students would be able to face the world beyond Mewat, interacting with people not only from India but from different countries as well. Ultimately, Mr. Chauhan is certain that by boosting his students’ English abilities and enabling them to be more self-confident, the Teach India programme would empower them to be economically independent, leaving a lasting impact on not just their lives, but those of future generations in Mewat as well.
After just a month of training, 18-year-old Aslam Khan is much more confident in speaking the English Language. It is apparent that Aslam is more confident than before as he does his self-introduction.
After Aslam finished his 12th standard examinations, his father enrolled him and his younger brother into the Teach India Spoken English Training Programme, having heard positive feedback about the course. The affable youth tells us he finds the lessons engaging and easy to follow as his instructor Mr. Chauhan tries to incorporate interactive activities such as role-play, “[Mr. Chauhan] will teach via the book and after that, he will present it in such a way that we will easily understand it”. Aslam attends lessons regularly and diligently ensures he completes his homework daily.
Coming from a small family, Aslam is willing to take up any job within the hospitality industry. When asked about the challenges he has faced thus far, the cheerful youth smiles and says, “Everything is fit! Previously there was no inverter but now we have an inverter too. All is good.” Enthusiastic about the course, Aslam has been trying to get his other brothers and friends who have completed their +2 and 10th standard to sign up, telling us, “They are keen to enroll in the course after this batch ends.” Our 20-minute chat ended with Aslam describing his classroom in 5 sentences in English.
Compared to a month ago, Aslam is no longer visibly nervous as he speaks. We are certain if he continues to work on his spoken English proficiency, he would easily complete his course with outstanding grades. We would like to wish him all the best in his quest of finding a job within the hospitality industry upon graduation.
1 month back:
“My name is Aslam Khan and I am 18 years old. I am from Firozpur Namak”.
1 month later:
“My name is Aslam Khan and my father’s name is Usman Khan. I am from Firozpur Namak. My hobbies are playing cricket and watching TV”.
5 Sentences in English!
1. My classroom’s color is green.
2. And there are 2 fans in my classroom.
3. There is one whiteboard in front of my classroom.
4. And [there is] one noticeboard [on the] left hand side [of] my classroom.
5. My teacher’s name is Girdhari Chauhan.
It is amazing what 30 days can do! 16-year-old Saurabh cheerfully exhibits his newly acquired spoken English proficiency throughout our interview with him. One month back, the Kurthala youth was struggling to hold a conversation with us but this time, it is a complete turnaround, and Saurabh is determined to use the interview as an opportunity to practise his language skills. The uncertainty he initially displayed a month ago is no longer visible, as he insists on speaking to us in complete English sentences. Despite being among the youngest learners in the class, Saurabh has shown tremendous progress in his spoken English skills. The focused youth is juggling the Teach India course, computer lessons and his +1 studies all at the same time. He attends lessons regularly despite his busy schedule, and it has evidently paid off as he feels his language proficiency has improved in the last month.
During our chat, Saurabh shares that he is currently taking the Sales & Retail module and learning how to “Meet and Greet Customers”. To assess how much Saurabh had learnt, we did a mock sales scenario conversation and he left us impressed with his outstanding performance.
Coming from a family of 7, Saurabh hopes to find employment in the hospitality sector within the next 2 years. Our interview wrapped up with an exercise where Saurabh described his classroom in 5 sentences in the English Language. Although there is still room for improvement, his performance, confidence and determination nonetheless remains commendable.
Saurabh: Good afternoon Ma’am. How can I help you?
Us: Good afternoon. No thank you, I am just looking.
Saurabh: Great! If you [have] any problem, you can ask me.
Us: Okay thank you!
5 Sentences in English!
1. There are 2 fans in my classroom.
2. There are more than 25 chairs in my classroom.
3. There [is] an office in my classroom.
4. There are 2 tube lights on [the] left wall of my classroom.
5. There are 2 jugs of water in my classroom.
Only 17 years old, Sumit Kumar speaks with a quiet maturity beyond his years. Home on vacation after recently completing the 12th standard in Gurgaon, the Sangail youth decided to participate in the Teach India programme to make the most out of his holiday. He tells us that his family and friends are supportive of his decision, “[They] feel this is the right and correct programme. There is growth in our society. This is education and is for good for the future. Through this we are getting a good education.”
Sumit is satisfied with his Teach India experience thus far, sharing with us that he can now introduce himself and purchase items in English. The soft-spoken youth adds with a smile, “The strength of the class is right. The instructor teaches well too… I feel this class is really good, and through this course I have gained a lot of knowledge.” Sumit especially enjoys practising public speaking in English in front of his classmates, and tells us that the class has boosted his confidence in speaking English by 50%. And he indeed speaks with visibly more poise, smoothly engaging in a spontaneous sales scenario conversation with less hesitation than a month ago.
For Sumit, participating in the Teach India course is a step towards achieving his life goal of becoming a lecturer with BSC, as he plans to get a retail or hospitality job to support himself while he furthers his studies in Mathematics. In any case, the mature youth understands the profound value of learning English in general, earnestly telling us, “Today, there is nothing without the English language. It is the one such language where you can interact with people from any state or country, be understood and you can help them too. So today learning English is important. Not just important but very very…the most important.”
Sumit: Good morning Ma’am, how do you do?
Us: Good. I am fine, thank you.
Sumit: How can I help you?
Us: No thank you, I am just looking.
Sumit: Okay! Ask me if you need any help.