Learning Arabic to land call-centre jobs
Sajid, 14, came all the way from Kerala to Jamia Nizamia, India’s only Arabic-medium university, to get a classical education. Very soon, he realised his erudition would have multiple uses.
He’s now looking forward not only to the edifying experience of reading Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, but also to the more pecuniary satisfaction of landing a job in an Arabic-speaking country.
“My parents sent me here to learn values and culture,” he said. “But now I also have opportunities. After completing my studies, I would love to start a career in Egypt.”
Over the past two years, many students have got jobs on the strength of their language skills. Three students now work in newspapers in Tunisia, Morocco and Lebanon. This year, a student joined Accenture’s call centre in Gurgaon and two others got positions at Globsyn in Kolkata. Another student has joined Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the world’s oldest Islamic university.
No wonder enrolment at Jamia Nizamia has soared to 1,300 students, up from 500 three years ago.
The university is also responding to the demands of the job market. It has begun exchange programmes with universities in Arabic-speaking countries. Students from Al-Azhar, Cairo, regularly visit Hyderabad.
To make students more marketable, the university has decided to appoint an English teacher for the first time in its 135-year history. “A person who knows both Arabic and English has a much better chance of landing a job in a call centre,” said L Suresh, of the Hyderabad Software Exporters’ Association.
Many students learn about jobs through the internet. “They always had the skills,” said Sayed Ahmed Ali, secretary of Jamia Nizamia. “It was just a matter of getting connected.”