Free personality project to offer BPO jobs to Muslim youth

July 8th, 2008 - 10:37 am ICT by IANS  

By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) Clad in a black burqa, 20-year-old Zubeena Maryam stretched her ‘o’s and rolled her ‘r’s with a perfect American twang along with the rest of her batchmates. A regular at a free personality development programme organized especially for Muslim youth in Delhi, Maryam, like the rest, hopes the programme will help her get a job in a BPO. “I will appear for a few interviews for a job in a call centre after this programme gets over. I am sure I will make it,” Maryam, her face covered and her kohl-lined eyes sparkling with confidence, told IANS at the end of her class.

Maryam was one of the 450-odd students - including homemakers, school and college students and professionals - who attended the free personality training and communication skill development programme organized by the Noble Education Foundation at the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) here.

An offshoot of a similar programme in Hyderabad that has trained and placed over 1,000 people, mostly Muslim youth, in jobs, the programme here attracted overwhelming response.

Wadood Sajid, one of the organizers of the programme, said the initiative might be aimed at uplifting Muslim youth and providing them with employment opportunities, but it didn’t refuse admission to students from other communities.

“When we advertised this programme in an Urdu newspaper about a month and a half back, we got about 850 calls enquiring about it. Among them were some asking if a non-Muslim could join and we immediately registered them,” Sajid told IANS.

“Although the numbers are few, we had about 30-40 students from other communities. While our aim is to help unemployed Muslim youth gain skills to get jobs, we didn’t restrict people from other communities from joining,” he added.

“There have been instances when girls who have never stepped out of their homes travelled all the way from central Delhi to attend the class and are speaking confidently. In a way, we are trying to ward off the somewhat tarnished image of Muslims here…we are trying to tell everyone that we should walk with the times,” he added.

The 450 students registered for the programme were as diverse as they can be. In the age group of 16-60, some come casually dressed in jeans and t-shirts, while others were in salwars and burqas, the men wearing their beards long and in white skull caps, but all chanting words and sentences with a twang.

The ratio between men and women is 70:30, with the students being divided into three batches.

The month-long programme, which brushed up the students’ grammar, taught vowel and consonant sounds from the American and British manner of speaking, and phonetics, ended with a convocation ceremony July 7.

Although most like Maryam took the classes for job opportunities, there were others like Saba Roohi, an artist, who came just for the love of learning the language properly.

“Brushing up one’s language skills and speaking correct English are very important in today’s competitive world to land a good job. The first time I came for this class I was not sure what I was getting myself into since they were offering the training free of cost.

“But now I am happy that I speak better English. I read magazines aloud at home, reminding myself of correct pronunciations and watch English serials concentrating on their diction,” said Roohi, one of the regular frontbenchers and wearing a pink salwar-kameez with her head covered.

Mohammad Munwar Zama, the instructor who also runs a language training centre in Hyderabad, said that since most of the students came from Urdu medium schools, acquiring a perfect American English diction was a challenge.

“Nevertheless, I am cent percent sure that at least 50 percent of them will get a job after this course. The passion to learn in them is very strong and most of them are quick learners,” Zama said.

There were some language trainers taking the classes as well. So did some government employees and professionals who wanted to improve their language skills and mostly came for the evening class.

Aijaz Ahmed, for instance, is a power point presentation developer and an English language trainer who attended the classes to hone his communication skills.

“I concentrated on how our instructor reached out to such a large number of people and got his message across with such ease,” Ahmed said.

At the end of the course, the coordinators of the programme invited BPOs and other placement agencies so that the students could be placed in jobs.

“Companies like Bajaj Alliance Insurance company and some BPOs have approached us to absorb some of our students. We aim to place at least 50 percent of the students,” Sajid said.

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