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English language programme helps refugees

Is the ‘Adult and Community Education (ACE)-funded Beginners English Programme’ achieving its purpose? Are people completing these courses successfully employed?

The Programme was put to test by the Wellington based Multicultural Learning & Support Services (MCLaSS) two months ago, following the arrival of a large number of families from Assyria.

According to MCLaSS Manager Mary Collie-Holmes, while some of them had high English levels, others were beginners, eager to join a class.

“We have made a commitment to Refugee Services that we will always enroll newly arrived refugees who need Beginner English as soon as they want to start. We have enrolled many students in the middle of a semester before, but usually, it is just two or three people to be accommodated with each intake,” she said.

MCLaSS classes, however, are usually full and hence, a new class had to be created to provide lessons to 14 members of the Assyrian community, Ms Collie-Holmes said.

“Yet, every week that people spend waiting to get into an English course makes it that much longer before they gain proficiency to get a good job or to enroll in a mainstream vocational or academic course.

“Starting a new class and finding teachers and an extra classroom at short notice was a challenge,” she said.

Ms Collie-Holmes said that she had to reshuffle students to get a good mix of learners in the class. Learning English in a class where different languages are spoken was much better than everybody speaking the same first language.

“Students from other Level 1 classes were moved into the new class, and the newcomers were distributed between the existing classes. We are grateful to the existing students for accepting this upheaval so late in the semester,” she said.

Assyrian learners who were placed in classes were equally grateful for the efforts made to accommodate them.

“I can learn and improve my English to get a job and support my wife and child,” Nyouten Israil, an Assyrian refugee said.

Source: Multicultural Learning & Support Services

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