Muscat: While most of us enjoy sleeping in on Friday mornings, Gaurav Selvaraj is teaching English to labourers at the Al Ansar labour camp in Ghala.
The 21-year-old, who completed his schooling at the American British Academy in 2013, is back in Oman on a gap year from Bishop’s University in Quebec, Canada, where he is studying for a degree in Political Science.
But now he teaches English to some 15 to 20 people from 9:30 to 11 every Friday.
This began when his mother put him in touch with people who were volunteering to teach English, in coordination with the Indian Social Club, when he returned to Oman in October.
“We started out with things that were really basic, like spelling, sentence structure and grammar, to build up their confidence a little bit,” he said. “It is just a really good group of people and I enjoy helping them out.
Despite the initial difficulties he had in communicating to the camp residents, Gaurav soon found a way to interact with them.
“My Hindi is atrocious, and most of them only knew a few words of ‘Hinglish’, that is mostly Hindi with a few words of English thrown in,” he said, speaking exclusively to Times of Oman.
“They mostly understood my tone. For example, if I were talking about food, my tone would indicate whether I liked this food or not.
“I taught them largely by describing through pictures,” added Gaurav. “They’re people from all over India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, so I would get someone who spoke their regional language and understood what I say, so he could explain it to them, and he would then explain it to two or three more people, and they would explain it to the rest.”
While quite a few of the camp residents work in furniture shops, others are employed as foremen, office boys, carpenters, steel workers and in construction. People are also bussed in from other camps if they wish to learn English from him. Although he has only been teaching at the camp for about three months, Gaurav can already see progress.
“They now come to me and ask me for help openly, because earlier they were shy, as they didn’t understand and didn’t want to make themselves look stupid in front of their peers,” he revealed.
“Now they come to me and ask me questions, and keep pushing me for an explanation until they’re satisfied with the