You may be surprised to see nearly a hundred students sitting in the open air with pen and paper at Senate Bhaban premises of Dhaka University every Friday and Monday. No matter if the sun is blazing hot or if the weather is bad, they always turn up.
This is the Multiple Language Learning Centre, Dhaka University, a language training course initiated by some DU students. Eight foreign languages including English, Chinese, French and Spanish are taught at the learning centre. It costs only 30 taka to register. There are 30 classes, 1 taka per class. After six months, students are selected for another six months advanced course through a qualifying test.
The 30 taka cost for registration is actually spent for renting sound systems, microphones, writing boards, marker pens and such.
The initiative was founded by a student of Persian literature and language Ismail Hossain Siraji. He did not want to go for any conventional nine to five job in government sectors or banks. Following his passion to do something different, he one day posted on Facebook that if anyone wanted to learn and teach any foreign language, they should comment on the post. The post received 1500 comments.
He met couple of other students who were interested in the initiative. The learning centre managed to gather more than 800 students so far. Students are offered courses in English, Persian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Arabian, German and French.
“Students are now after government jobs and are frustrated when they fail to obtain one. Our main objective is to make them learn a foreign language and opt for other professions other than conventional jobs,” said one of the instructors of Spanish and German language Anisur Rahman.
Chinese language instructor Suman is a student of Dhaka University’s fine arts faculty. He learnt basic Chinese at Confucius Centre in the capital.
“I am trying to teach them what I learnt. I talked to the director of the Confucius Centre to ask him whether it was possible to use their study materials and curriculum for our learning centre and he agreed with appreciation,” Suman told Prothom Alo.
Besides Chinese, the instructors of other languages are also using international standard curriculums and handmade reading materials.
How do the students like the lessons? In reply, the students said the learning centre does not have the conventional teacher-student relationship. They are more like brothers and sisters.
That, however, does not mean the learning is easy. If anyone misses classes for a week he or she is expelled from the course.
“We are not forcing anyone. If anyone really wants to learn, they must show up,” said one of the instructors.
Everyone has to obtain at least 80 per cent marks in the final exam after six months. There are weekly in course exams as well. Besides that, each student has to prepare 10 tutorial papers on his own.
When Siraji posted the status on Facebook, associate professor of Persian language and literature department Mumit al Rashid commented, “You start. I will be there.” He has been working as the voluntary advisor of the learning centre.
“I would give them a 100 on 100 score! There are very few people in our country who think this way at such a young age,” Mumit al Rashid said.
English instructor Nafees said the learning centre now open only for DU students.
“We dream one day this initiative will be spread to the universities across the country,” he added.
Nafees said their objective is to establish the very first ‘Multi Language Learning School’ in the country and transform it as the multi language university in next ten years.
The registration of the second course will begin in January. The founder does not want to collect funds from outside despite a shortfall in logistics and funds.
“We will do as much as we can afford,” is their motto.
But a classroom is a must. And where there is a will there is a way.
*The piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat