Osman Khayawe, an employee at the American University Hospital (AUH), used to be a low-level tailor in the laundry department. However, since taking up English night classes, he has risen through the ranks to assistant laundry and sewing supervisor.

Khayawe is taking classes provided by the Civic Welfare League (CWL), the oldest and most active club at the American University of Beirut (AUB). One of their initiatives is the Night School. CWL members (and non-members) volunteer to teach English to AUB and AUH workers.

All CWL Night School students must complete three levels of basic English before they receive a certificate stating that they are ready to sit the Elementary English Test (EET).

Passing the EET improves these workers’ chances of promotion to a non-managerial position. After the EET, students may sit the IET (Intermediate English Test) and the EEE (English Entrance Examination), which enables them to be considered for a managerial position. Although the CWL is not authorized to teach EEE materials, the volunteer teachers can provide more advanced English writing and comprehension classes to help their students sit these tests.

Two to four volunteers are assigned to each level, totaling approximately 20 volunteers in total. The CWL student teachers volunteer to give classes at night in the deserted AUB classrooms. “It is like any other classroom,” says Najwa Tayarra, a CWL member. “[The students] give and take and there is always someone who wants to comment on everything.” The student teachers volunteer for many reasons; those studying education benefit from the practice, and others are just keen to help. Tayarra, for example, says: “I love to see the students happy; they are always asking for more.”

What makes this club stand out is the opportunity it gives to workers like Khayawe. Naturally, Khayawe’s promotion was not solely due to his completion of the courses, but it was thanks to his effort and initiative, in addition to the fact that the courses helped him advance in his field. He started out as a grade 4 (out of 12) employee. Despite having left school with only a BAC2, he is now a Grade 9 level employee, a position that normally requires a BA. “I took an English course in AUB as well as the night school,” Khayawe explains, before adding: “Honestly, I benefited more from the students [than anything else]; you feel that they are there willingly and that they teach with all their heart.”

Evidently, everyone, regardless of their occupation or position in life, can benefit from continued education.

This article was previously published in Hibr Issue 10