By Badea Abu Al-Naja
EMPLOYING disabled people is seen by most employers as difficult, too expensive and likely to result in low productivity. However, the management of a local mall in Makkah recently hired a group of physically challenged students as security guard trainees. And this is probably the first time that a disabled person is offered the job of a security guard in the Kingdom.
The management of Dhiyafa Mall, which hired eight disabled students from Imam Al-Baihaqi High School in Makkah, has said the move comes in line with the management’s policy of integrating disabled persons into mainstream society. It also reflected the corporate social responsibility values of the mall management.
The school principal approached the mall management and suggested that it train their students and give them a chance to mingle with people. The management agreed and hired eight students as security guards.
Studies have found that the cost of recruiting disabled employees is generally lower, and most disabled workers have better attendance, higher productivity and lower health and safety issues than their normal colleagues.
However, employers in general do not recognize the benefits disabled workers could bring to the workplace. Disabled people appreciate the opportunity they are given and this undoubtedly leads to loyalty and longevity. Disabled employees tend to work hard and more conscientiously to prove to their able-bodied colleagues that they are just as capable of doing the job.
Raad Al-Harthy, a special education teacher at Imam Al-Baihaqi High School, is the supervisor of the students who have been hired as security guards by Dhiyafa Mall.
“High school students with disabilities can learn a lot of things and get trained and be integrated in the labor market. At school, we encourage students to get over their shyness and go out and mingle with people and act as normal persons. We enhance their self-confidence and skills and work hard to help them integrate into society,” he explained.
The students expressed their happiness for being given an opportunity that should allow them to get over any difficulty in communicating with people.
“The students show up on time and take the job very seriously. They work hard during the duty hours and strictly follow the orders and instructions of their superiors,” he explained.
Al-Harthy drives the students every day to the workplace and get them there at 8:00 a.m. Their shift ends at 11:00 a.m. when Al-Harthy drives them back to school.
They work three days a week, he said, calling for people to come forward to help the disabled students by taking care of them because such support could go a long way in improving their condition. If neglected, the disabled students can suffer a lot and their performance level will never improve, he warned.
Marwan Bahrawi, the manager of Dhiyafa Mall, said the owner of the mall, Osama Zaini, instructed the management to participate effectively in any programs that come in line with the mall’s social responsibility policy.
“We approached the stores in the mall and suggested that they hire the disable students but they said it was not possible because the school principal said the students could only work three hours from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Then we talked to the company providing security guards and asked them to absorb the disabled students,” he explained.
The trainees are aged between 21 and 23. Some of them suffer from Down’s syndrome, some have low IQ levels and others have physical disabilities.
The students have proved their worth by being highly professional and punctual. Both shop owners and shoppers have commended their work.
Mansour Al-Harbi, who is in charge of the disabled students, said they did well in their jobs. “They welcomed the shoppers with smile and were ready to help anyone who needed assistance,” he said.
The salaries of the students will be paid by the mall owner.