Cleaning staff at Heriot-Watt University's Malaysia campus have taken a break from their normal work duties in favour of the classroom.
For the first time, the University has offered employees the chance to learn English to enhance their skills.
One day, a cleaner ran to me with excitement telling me how happy she was when she understood a student of ours asking for a replenishment of toilet papers.
A total of 17 cleaners joined the course, which launched in October last year, and attended an English class every week over a four month period.
The scheme is the brainchild of the Head of Human Resources in Malaysia, Voo Jing Yng, who identified the opportunity for the staff members - some of whom have never received a formal education – to learn a foreign language, which is widely used on campus.
She explains: "One day, a cleaner ran to me with excitement telling me how happy she was when she understood a student of ours asking for a replenishment of toilet papers.
"It was at that very moment when I realised that the Heriot-Watt community is making a difference to the cleaners' life.”
Confidence levels among the cleaners noticeably increased after spending time in classes with some now using English for simple greeting commands while at work.
When asked about what aspires her to be part of this effort, Stella Marie Galimpin, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia's Effective Learning Manager, said: “Actually, it's the most practical thing to do for our cleaners. Very often, foreign students who enter the university would be asking for directions in the first few days in campus. The easiest person to approach would be the cleaners because they are everywhere.”
And it won't be the end of it, according to Stella. “We are starting an intermediate class next month. There's already a momentum for this. In fact, the more diligent among them have asked for additional reading classes!”
The programme is part of the University's 'A Happier U' initiative, which intends to promote and cultivate a caring community on campus.