NZ EEEYD Charitable Trust
Refugee-led New Zealand Ethnic Employment Education and Youth Development Charitable Trust (NZ EEEYD) runs catch-up classes for under-achieving refugee students. Classes are run most Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and support 80 - 100 young people from the wider Auckland City area.
NZ EEEYD spokesman, Mahad Warsame, a Somali who has been here for 13 years, says parents and refugee communities have pressed for the catchup classes, deeply concerned that their children will drop out early and fail to get vocational training, employment or higher education. Refugee students are held back by disparities between the NZ school curriculum and that of their country of origin, difficulties with reading and writing, and lack of support from parents also struggling with English, he says.
The students, aged between 11 and 19, are mostly Somali, Eritrean, Iraqi and Afghan. Mahad says the kids pick up verbal English very quickly so the classes focus on reading and writing, maths and science with the assistance of registered teachers, bi-lingual teacher aids, community leaders and parents.
The message is that they will do better in life if they apply themselves, and the 1.5 adult/student ratio helps them do it. Students are also kept motivated by challenges, competitions and rewards. Graduates are celebrated, and the kids enjoy the social contact. Mahad says there has been a marked increase not in just self esteem, but in confidence tackling school home work, and good study habits are being created. Involving parents in the classes also greatly benefits their children.
A Ministry of Education report says that "young people from refugee backgrounds presented a picture of culture shock, isolation and school failure". Some children had spent prolonged periods in refugee camps with limited school experience, and many had lost their fathers in wars and lacked male role models. Mahad believes the classes will help the students through these difficulties. "It's about taking school work seriously and making the most of every opportunity to learn," he says. About 750 refugees arrive in NZ annually and about 1/3 will settle in Auckland. Mahad is focused on creating an environment in which educational achievement is the norm and older children will be good role models.