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After-school homework centre helps community realise dream

Apr 30th, 2013 | By | Category: Diversity, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

Students and volunteer tutors of the Ethnic Youth Homework Centre

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS from refugee families who attend after-school programmes are outperforming home-grown Kiwis, according to a volunteer tutor.

The Wellington Somali Council set up the Ethnic Youth Homework Centre where volunteers help students whose first language is not English.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the kids who come through the Ethnic Youth Homework Centre finish college and go on to universities,” says centre coordinator Sunayana Mukherjee.

In contrast, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority Review of University Entrance (2010) found that only 30% of school leavers go on to study at university.

“A lot of families who come to this centre come from a background where they need a lot support,” says Ms Mukherjee.

A volunteer helps a student.

This programme has been helping resettle children with educational needs for seven years.

The centre keeps tabs on students at their respective schools by keeping in contact with their teachers and the students’ families, says Ms Mukherjee.

“Teachers continually keep us updated about the students’ progress, which is great.”

The homework centre also provides support for the parents. “We often invite the parents once a week to talk about the kids’ progress, and see what else we can do for them,” says Ms Mukherjee.

As most of the parents have not had a New Zealand education, the staff at the centre try to bridge that gap by offering them a little tutoring also, Ms Mukherjee says.

Last year, as part of Adult Learners’ Week, the community it supports nominated the centre for a Dynamic Community Learning Award, which it went on to win.

The centre has also won the Just Speak competition in which Wellington high school students present their version of a justice system.

Faduma Moallin, chairwoman of the Somali Council, says the children do not have to attend the after-school programme.

“They choose to come here and do the work. Homework at the homework centre is not compulsory.”

The centre also provides activities during the school holidays.

Some children are unable to afford holiday programmes, says Ms Moallin, so the homework centre provides what help it can.

“Last July we did not get any funding, so we had to do some fundraising,” she says.

“The children came up with the idea to sell chocolates, and we had enough money to go kayaking, rock climbing and bowling.

As part of the holiday programme, the students received three days of computer training through Smart Newtown, an initiative funded by Wellington City Council.

Tirhas Mehari

The holiday programme was so successful last year that centre staff are thinking about doing the same this year.

“[The fundraising exercise] was a great way to give the students leadership and organisational experience.”

Though the students at the centre come from a variety of backgrounds and hold different  religious beliefs, they are all open-minded.

“When the Catholics are fasting, the Muslims from Somalia respect them, and vice versa,” says Ms Mukherjee. “No one has told them to be tolerant; they learned it themselves.”

Tirhas Mehari, left, who has come from Ethiopia, attends the Ethnic Youth Homework Centre for help her with her school work.

She says the centre is like a second home where she made new friends, some of whom are now at university.

“Sunayana is like a mum to us here,” she says. “The tutors are great as well. They helped me pass NCEA Level 1 last year.

“Holiday programmes are always a bonus. We visited the zoo and a radio station last year.”

The students have created a Facebook page for them to share and communicate with one another, and keep in contact with friends who have moved on to university.








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  1. Great ideas

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