Over 10k domestic workers pick up skills

DOMESTIC helper Asih yesterday graduated from a six-month sewing course, in which she learnt how to make dresses and scarves.

The 34-year-old Indonesian, who goes by one name, was among 268 students to graduate from the Mujahidah Learning Centre, which celebrated its 10th anniversary since its first graduation year.

"Since young, I've always wanted to learn this," said Ms Asih. "But I didn't get the opportunity because I never had the money to do so."

The centre was set up by the Mujahidin Mosque in 2005 to train domestic workers from countries such as Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

While it started with just 35 students, it has now trained more than 10,000. It runs five courses: English, sewing, cooking and baking, grooming and hairdressing and computing.

Students attend classes every Sunday for two hours and each course lasts six months.

Adviser to the Mujahidah Learning Centre Sarimah Ta-lip said some workers have since returned home to set up salons and spas in places like Bali and Batam in Indonesia.

"It makes me shed tears when I hear of such examples," she added.

"It's good for them to attend such courses because they are working here in Singapore and can contribute positively back to their society."

Feedback from employers has also been positive.

The English classes, for instance, have helped domestic workers to better communicate with their employers.

In the case of Ms Asih, it was her employer Jane Jacobs, an urban studies professor at Yale-NUS College, who paid for her course and encouraged her to pick up new skills.

Attending the classes gives her the opportunity to socialise too.

"I thought she could be a bit isolated because she's the only Bahasa-speaking helper in our neighbourhood," said Prof Jacobs. "This gave her the opportunity to be connected to the community."

To mark the centre's anniversary, the centre also launched a commemorative magazine yesterday to showcase its progress.

The book features accounts from foreign domestic workers who have attended the course.


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