Several months ago, a senior faculty member at Oxford Policy Management, an outsourcing consultancy, told one of his younger colleagues about an NGO that provided opportunities for disadvantaged Indian young adults. His curiosity piqued, Farhan Mughees (the aforementioned colleague) applied for a job interview at ETASHA, and got the job four months ago in May 2012. as a facilitator. “I always wanted to work with young people that didn’t already have a fixed idea in their minds about what they wanted to be after completing their education—children that might be disillusioned about their future. ETASHA was providing such an environment and would allow me to directly help these children, and so I joined.” His work takes him anywhere from ETASHA’s office in GK-II to centers in Tigri and Madanpur Khadar, encompassing myriad classes, ranging from English to computers to interpersonal skills. Although he is willing to teach all age groups, Farhan prefers teaching younger trainees in non-vocational programs; indeed, it seems they like him as well: of the six trainees under the age of sixteen I have interviewed so far, four of them listed “Farhan sir” as their favorite teacher.
As a facilitator, Farhan strives to make each class both informative and fun. However, it’s not just that he enjoys teaching; specifically, he enjoys ETASHA-style teaching. He explains, “In most schools, the curriculum is contained in a book, which you have to read and understand. But here, the curriculum is broader. For example, if I’m giving a lesson on phrasal verbs, I can use my own creativity to teach the lesson in a way of my choosing; the content of my lesson isn’t just confined to a book.” This sets up an environment for a more comfortable teacher-student relationship, in addition to making children more willing to learn, since no two lessons look the same. “That’s my favorite part about facilitating here,” says Farhan with a smile. “I have to teach a certain topic, but other than that, I’m free to choose how I go about teaching it. I usually share jokes with my students during lessons.” This educational structure not only pushes facilitators to make each lesson interesting, but it also makes trainees more eager to learn, which is what ETASHA is all about. By making jokes and encouraging familiarity, Farhan ensures that his trainees view him as a trusted friend as well as a mentor, and as such, are not afraid to ask him questions regarding his lessons. This increases their knowledge base and builds up their confidence when dealing with figures of authority—if today, they have the confidence to ask their teacher a question about his/her lesson, tomorrow, they won’t feel fear when asking a potential employer or customer for clarification.
Still, facilitating isn’t always easy. Farhan says, “The hardest part for me as a facilitator is coming up with new ways to demonstrate abstract concepts to trainees, because sometimes, they don’t understand, even after several examples. Then you have to think for a few minutes on a new way to demonstrate the idea so that they will understand it.” However, Farhan believes that the trainees do their best under the difficult circumstances that they face. “Family pressure can really be detrimental to their future,” he explained. “For example, a little while back, one of our trainees was very good at speaking English. She quickly found a job for herself, but for whatever reason, her husband wouldn’t allow her to take the job. Many of them, like her, have the aspirations, they have the understanding, but the pressure of their families sometimes holds them back.”
In addition to making conditions ideal for the underprivileged students it assists, Farhan posits that ETASHA also engenders a relaxed, laid back atmosphere among colleagues. “It doesn’t feel hierarchal,” he points out. “Everybody is friends with everyone else. All my colleagues have become my friends. A while back, we all went on holiday together. They’re a cool group of people.” Whether he is in the office (promoting a comfortable atmosphere) or in the centers (finding creative ways to make classes informative and enjoyable), Farhan’s dedication to his work shows why he is an outstanding member of the ETASHA team. In fact, he is soon expected to join the placement team in addition to his facilitating role, working to find job openings in the corporate and retail sectors for older trainees.
Stay tuned to hear more!