To get the most out of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) many Pakistanis are learning the Chinese language. To make this learning easier for them, the government has introduced a free three-month Chinese language course under TEVTA. This September, I got a chance to attend this course. After one month I left it and I was not the only one.
Many students leave this course after some time. It always happens with every batch of the Chinese language program. TEVTA is quite worried about it, but still they have failed to find the reason behind it. Here I am, to help them find the flaws in this three-month language program.
The classes are held six days a week for three months with four hours each day. At the end of this course, one can clear level one of HSK, Chinese language proficiency test. The teacher teaches eight to ten words daily which take half an hour max. To pass the remaining time the teacher asks students to repeat each word they learnt that day twice or thrice turn by turn. Some teachers give a short break to students which they can extend up to forty-five minutes. The later you come into the class the happier the teacher will be.
The second problem I observed is the concern of TEVTA with attendance of the students. The class starts at nine in the morning and by 10:00 am every institute has to give attendance report to TEVTA. The attendance should be more than 50, otherwise it can bring the management under trouble. At my training institute, the first hour of class daily goes into this attendance hassle. The teacher calls our attendance three times. Then we write our names on a separate paper, which the class representative gives to the teacher after she is finished with the attendance register.
TEVTA also offers a professional track course for those on jobs, but that is offered at selective institutes only. That program is conducted in the evening and its duration is four months. The classes are held six days a week. Each class lasts for two hours.
Another problem with this Chinese language program is the behaviour of the management, which can be quite insulting at times. The students who join the Chinese language program are mostly businessmen, professionals or university students. The management of the training institute is not trained to deal with this community. They try to treat the Chinese language students in the same way they handle other students of institutes. Other students come from a different background without sufficient facilities and awareness. They have to bear the insulting behaviour of management, because they can’t afford to get expelled from the technical program they are attending. The applicants of Chinese language programs are more educated, skilful, professional and aware of their rights. They do not tolerate that unprofessional behaviour of the management.
On the second day of my language course, the principal of the college came into the class. He asked every boy wearing a sandal to come out.
He scolded them for wearing qainchi chappal (flip-flops) in the class. I saw in the direction he was pointing at. The boys were wearing open sandals. No one was wearing flip-flops.
A few moments later, the principal started to insult them for wearing open sandals. He was calling the sandals qainchi chappal repeatedly. One of the boys came forward and asked him if that sandal was flip-flops. The principal got angry and ordered the boy to leave the class immediately. Then he ordered the teacher to cancel his registration. “We don’t need leaders in the class”, he said to the whole class. Later, he called the boy inside and asked him whether he had an affiliation with any religious or political party. The boy said no and apologized for speaking in front of him and sat on one chair. Though he was right but he had no other option than to apologize.
After two weeks, the principal came again into the class with the former principal of the institution. To impress him, he started to talk about advantages CPEC will bring to Pakistan. After one line, I don’t know how, he shifted to Zia-ul-Haq and from him to MumtazQadri, the assassinator of the former governor of the Punjab SalmaanTaseer. He said Nawaz Sharif is facing the outcome of his decision to hang MumtazQadri. That moment I reached the extreme of my tolerance. I asked him to not talk about that issue. We were seventy people in the class belonging to different social groups, with different opinions. That topic was highly controversial and irrelevant to the situation. It could have led things in any direction. The principal left the class immediately saying that yes, we should not discuss such topics. But it was not the end. Later he talked to the teacher about me. The very next day, the Chinese language teacher gave me a lecture on how to talk to a principal of an institute. Such a power-hungry man.
The last nail in the coffin was the day I wanted to leave the class earlier to attend a meeting. My teacher allowed me the short leave after taking a written application from me. I went to the gate and there the security guard stopped me. He asked me for a gate pass about which I had no information. “Bring the gate pass. Without that you cannot leave”, saying this he blocked my way physically. That was harassment. I started to shout and crossed the gate.
The next day when I wanted to file his complaint with the management, they actually took his side. I told them that no one told me about gate pass at the time I was applying for a short leave. If no one tells me how would I know that any such thing is part of leave application SOP in this institute? The management said that they were stricter with girls. I asked, why? What do you think, where do the girls go? Two other boys from my class went earlier that day and no one came back to take the gate pass so why should I go back to bring a gate pass? The clerk said that the principal had directed them to be stricter with the girls leaving earlier. I said then the principal needs a psychiatrist.
How can one stay in such institute under such conditions? These issues made me leave that institute just after a month of my joining. Similarly, many others have also left. Everyone had their own reasons.
TEVTA should take serious measures if it wants to maintain a good strength in its Chinese language programs. The training institution should be trained to deal with the mature Chinese language applicants. TEVTA should also focus more on quality than the quantity. If they offer a program with two hours daily, they can get more students. Four hours and just eight words a day are not enough to retain students in the class. But it seems like TEVTA has introduced this course just to get funds from the government and to get some publicity.