The educational needs of the students we work with are unique. Many students from African countries have been unable to go to school consistently throughout their lives, and without formal education before arriving in Australia, have struggled to succeed in the mainstream Australian education system.
While refugee experiences vary greatly, education levels are especially low among those who fled their home country at ages when, or even before, they should have been attending school, and subsequently spent many years in refugee camps.
On settling in Australia, young refugees are provided with 12 months of English language training. After this, they are expected to fit into the mainstream Australian education system at an age-appropriate level. For those with little language ability, who cannot write in their first language and who have had very little schooling, it is very challenging to adapt to this mainstream environment.
The complexity of life for refugee students is increased by the social issues related to living in a very different country and dealing with issues of trauma from their past lives. In addition to these issues, many of our students must learn to be mothers, deal with issues of separation from family, and learn how to live independently.
River Nile Learning Centre works with the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) and with several local schools to find practical ways in which to improve student literacy and numeracy so they can function effectively in Australian society.