The University’s School of Education has been supporting the learning outcomes of almost 60 young people from 13 countries who are currently calling Tasmania home.
A team comprising of PhD, Master of Teaching and Bachelor of Education students mentored high school students from refugee and migrant backgrounds in terms 3 and 4 last year.
The Year 9 and 10 participants from five schools in Launceston and Hobart were supported in undertaking English language and numeracy skills development, and exploring educational pathways.
The opportunity was made possible after the University secured three grants totalling $75,000.
The funding was provided by the State Government’s Communities, Sport and Recreation Learning Grants Program which had identified a local need for optimising learning and educational outcomes of students from refugee and migrant backgrounds.
Coordinator Dr Subhash Koirala from the School of Education said collectively, the achievement allowed the University to deliver one holistic, embedded program.
“In the context of Tasmania, this is a unique mentoring program because it is integrated into schools and teaching hours, providing greater accessibility for students requiring support who might find it challenging to attend tutoring programs off-site or out of hours,” Dr Koirala said.
“After schools with higher populations of refugee and migrant students were identified, our team met with principals and teachers to understand their needs, and how we could work closely with students to improve their educational outcomes.
“The consistent efforts of our University mentors, their flexibility and the insights they have shared has been praised by teachers and those participating in the project.
“Their commitment to support newly-arrived young people who are striving to make Australia their new home is very inspirational for others in the community, and also speaks to our mission and ongoing work as a university for Tasmania.”
Professor David Kember, chair of the program’s management committee, said building educational aspiration was a long-term investment.
“The outcomes may not always be obvious in the short run, but the contributions of our mentors have certainly helped with the sustainable integration of these students into their schools and local communities,” Professor Kember said.
Participating students originated from locations including Bhutan, Afghanistan, China, Vietnam and Russia, while their University mentors had arrived to Tasmania from countries including Uganda, Vietnam, China and Nepal.
“We received an overwhelming level of interest from School of Education students when recruiting mentors for this project, and those who were selected had a wide range of pre-service teaching experience,” Dr Koirala said.
“The majority of our mentors also had migrant and refugee backgrounds themselves and saw this as a rewarding opportunity to become role models for these young people and give back to the communities which have welcomed them.”
In describing her experience as a mentor, Dr Kevina Kezabu said the program had been a two-way process.
“Personally, this program has given me a glimpse into the Tasmanian high school education system and, especially, into some of the challenges that children with a migrant background face, a space where my own children belong,” Dr Kezabu said.
“Working with these children has made me a more informed parent for my teenagers, and it is this program that brought me to meet and work with some of the most resourceful mentors/teachers Launceston has ever known.”
A coordinating teacher from a partner school thanked the University for facilitating the program, saying it had been both positive and insightful.
“I feel that it has been really successful and valuable for our Year 10 students in particular. There are a number of Year 9 students that I did not include this year, but after seeing how it worked, I will include for 2020 if we are lucky enough to have it continue.
“It was also really good for those students who do not regularly access support from outside agencies, such as the Migrant Resource Centre and Catholic Care.”
The team has since secured two further grants through the Communities, Sport and Recreation Learning Grants Program to continue the mentoring this year.
Other School of Education representatives supporting the 2019 project were:
Team leaders and mentors: Gilbert Arinaitwe, Bryce Deller, Dr Kevina Kezabu, Geberew Mekonnen;
Mentors: Lois Kidmas, Sara Maryniak, Nabaraj Mudwari, Nu Thuy Uyen Nguyen, Nita Novianti, Duc Thi Phung, Yasmine Shabaneh, Jingyi Shi, Kadison Street, Laura Wood, Dr Amanda Wu;
Management committee: Professor David Kember, Dr Subhash Koirala and Professor Karen Swabey.
Pictured: School of Education mentors receiving certificates for their involvement in the program, joined by coordinator Dr Subhash Koirala, Professor David Kember and Professor Karen Swabey.