With up to 70 refugee students registered for schools in Victoria, many are going to the classroom for the first time in years
Today has been a long time coming for Aisha Abdulhuc and her family. The Syrian mother of four is registering her children in Saanich schools
for the first time since arriving in Canada six months ago.
“Even the mom was wishing to being raised in this country, because she said that the schools are really awesome, they’re well prepared,” says family friend and translator Nawal Alhafnawy.
The family is registering the oldest son, Achmed, into secondary school.
“It’s very awesome and he’s thankful for everybody here,” says Alhafnawy.
The family lived in Turkey for five years and haven’t been to a classroom in that time.
They are unable to read or write in Arabic, so the learning curve gets even steeper when trying to learn English, as well.
“They need somebody to read for them and to trust that whatever you are reading is correct,” adds Alhafnawy.
“Even if you write that down in Arabic, they don’t understand, so it is a little bit of a struggle for them.”
“The parents are quite young and many of them have missed out on some of their education as well because of the upheaval their countries are still going through,” says Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria Chief Executive Officer Jean McRae.
The Inter-Cultural Association has been preparing refugee students throughout the summer, and are working with school boards implementing a Settlement Workers in School program for support.
“They’ve lost friends, they’ve lost family and you know that at a certain time those things are going to come up in the classroom and in the school yard, and so we really want to support the school districts to be able to do the best they can.”
Achmed is one of up to 70 refugee students in Victoria, with that number potentially reaching 150 by the end of the year.
But being in a Victoria school has given him hope for his future.
“He would like to be a doctor in the future, you know, and find a job in the future,” says Alhafnawy.
Achmed takes his first steps towards that goal when school starts next week.