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School, MClass help parents learn English to join community

Apr 14th, 2014 | By | Category: Diversity, Latest News, News



MIGRANT parents wanting to become more involved in their community are learning English at a local school in Miramar.

Non-English speaking parents are dropping their kids off at school and staying to learn the language for free.

Following a request from recently arrived Assyrian refugees, whose children attend Holy Cross School, principal Celeste Hastings says the sunny end of the school hall has been put aside for four hours a week for classes dedicated to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

“One of the best things we’ve ever done for the parents, in terms of the community,” Mrs Hastings said.

After being approached by the parents last year, Mrs Hastings recognised that there are also other ethnic groups with children within the school and the surrounding community and saw a real need.

Mrs Hastings contacted non-profit organisation MCLaSS to see if a partnership could be arranged.

The school provides the hall, and the active support of the children’s teachers and MCLaSS provides the teaching expertise.

“[It is] such an invaluable thing for the parents,” Mrs Hastings said.

“We’d be very keen to keep it going.”

Iranian mum Angela Yalda has been in New Zealand nine years and thinks the lessons are important.

“Because when some people talk with us, we can’t answer them,” Mrs Yalda said.

“It is important to talk to people, like the doctor.”

Rachel Jackson, right, had been volunteering for MCLaSS and decided that she would like to teach ESOL to adults, so she gained her qualification last year.Rachel

Miss Jackson loves the challenge, one of the difficulties she faces are the variety in levels of English the parents have and trying to coordinate lessons to suit everyone and make everyone comfortable.

Ms Jackson recognises the importance of including the parents in the community and feels good about being able to help.

“I get a lot from helping them into the community,” Miss Jackson said, “helping them feel more comfortable living in the community.”

The learning works both ways.

“We hear their stories from back home,” Miss Jackson said.

“It’s a perspective check on a daily basis.”

The nine or 10 mums and grandmothers sit at desks around the whiteboard, with three volunteers mixed in to help where they can.

“The volunteers help a lot, sometimes the parents feel frustrated if a lesson is too hard,” Miss Jackson said.

“If the parents aren’t comfortable, they won’t feel confident to try.”

The volunteers help the parents with the lessons and also sometimes take care of the smaller kids.

As part of the partnership between the school and MCLaSS, an experienced mother/childcare worker room looks after the refugees’ pre-school children in a room adjacent to the hall.

The childcare is provided by MCLaSS, and having the childcare onsite allows the parents to relax and concentrate on the day’s lesson.

AngelaAngela Yalda, left, says some parents find learning English hard, while others find it easy.

Her daughter helps her at home with her sentences, and it makes her happy.

“She tells me ‘not like that, like this’,” Mrs Yalda said.

“The children are at school and talk English all day, we have no one at home to talk to,” she said.

Dena Kirykos, moved from Iraq nine years ago, and realises that to get a fully integrated in New Zealand society she needs to speak English well.

“When I go out, I need to speak to people, to my children,” Mrs Kirykos said.

“If I can’t speak English, I can’t get a good job,” Mrs Kirykos said.

“I would like to improve my English to get an office job.”

Mrs Kirykos’ daughter is happy and proud of what her mother has achieved.

“She helps me and teaches me,” Mrs Kirykos said.

The school shares its newsletters and other written materials with Miss Jackson to pass onto the parents and this gets integrated into the lesson.

Miss Jackson teaches the class about concepts that the parents need to understand in order to fully support their children’s learning.

The school’s principal is passionate about the programme.

“It fills a real need in the community,” Mrs Hastings said.

One of the goals of the programme is to get the parents to build good bonds and relationships with others in the community.

Building relationships with New Zealanders and other fluent English speakers, other than Assyrians, expands their support network for language and cultural support.

The volunteers that come along each week play a vital role in providing these links.

If anyone is interested in volunteering and helping their community with the programme, contact Holy Cross School Miramar ph 04-388 7189.





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