CMU-Q students studying migrant workers' woes
Matthias Krug, Qatar Tribune
, 30 April 2008
DOHA - A group of three Carnegie Mellon-Qatar (CMU-Q) students from Education City and three faculty members are carrying out surveys to ascertain the challenges facing the migrant labourers. These surveys are being conducted as part of the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF)-backed 'Migrant worker survey' research project. The groundbreaking project, which altogether involves six students from CMU-Q, is one of 47 innovative research projects which have been allocated a total of $25million fund by the QNRF, a member of Qatar Foundation.
"There are a lot of stories in the newspapers about issues related with migrant labourers but there are no real quantitative data to support them. This project is aimed at doing exactly that," CMU-Q faculty member Marjorie Carlson told Qatar Tribune
before embarking on the Friday trip to Electricity Street in the Souq area. "Out of the total 250-300 surveys envisaged by the team, 50 have been conducted. The questionnaire of the extensive survey has 126 posers and 15-30 minutes are needed to complete it," he added.
At the Electricity Street, a large number of curious onlookers gathered around those who were answering the questions of students and faculty members. "We do not usually have visitors from outside our community," one of the workers said citing reason for the crowd. Another said, "If they are trying to know about us and the way we live it is good. We are happy to talk to them."
Sometimes language barrier does come up while conducting the survey, as the questionnaire is only in English. It is likely that it will be translated into Arabic, Hindi and Nepali during the next stages of the project. "Sometimes it is difficult to communicate with the workers because many don't know how to speak English," one of the students involved in the project said. "But we have methods of finding out workers who can communicate with us. It is difficult to conduct the survey in the Souq area on working days, but on Fridays we are able to talk to the migrant labourers who come here to spend their weekend," he added.
"When the workers are unable to communicate in English, we take the help of their friends who know English," said Dr. Silvia Pessoa. "Our experience has been really good. Once we approached a group of workers who first refused to talk to us. But when we explained the purpose of the survey they became so eager that they almost mobbed us. One man kept bringing more and more people to talk to us even though he himself was unable to answer our questions," he added.
The questionnaire has been split into eight sections containing posers on issues ranging from personal and family information to employment in Qatar and housing facilities. The students ask questions on the workers' academic qualification and the number of years they had taken to complete it. They also seek information regarding the contract and salary from the workers, besides their emotional state.
"It took a long time for the survey to get off. The final version is our tenth draft and we consulted several people to make sure that it was right," Pessoa said. "Since we did not want the questions to be suggestive we had to put in a lot of effort. Now we just have to go out with the students and complete the 300 questionnaires. Hopefully when we complete the work we will be in a position to inform the community about the challenges being faced by the workers in Qatar. We are also looking forward to publishing our research work in an international journal," he added.
I count five errors, several of them hilarious. Oh, and yes I am in the picture; I'm just to the right of Erik (the tall guy with a ponytail), wearing a blue polo shirt with a white stripe on the collar.