A University of Texas graduate student is calling for more Arabic speaking tutors to help an influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria at Austin Independent School District.
Dana El Kurd volunteers twice a week at Anderson High School and said the students she helps are struggling to adjust to a new culture and language.
“There are students who have been in refugee camps for five or six years waiting for this kind of official permission,” El Kurd said.
Part of the problem she said is that the majority of the classes the refugee students attend are in English. “Nobody speaks Arabic and a lot of them are kind of lost,” El Kurd said.
A good reason why they should be going to Muslim and/or Arab speaking countries rather than English speaking countries.
Many consider dropping out because of the lack of support and on top of that, El Kurd said refugee students report they are also being bullied. “I don’t think that a lot of their peers know where they are coming from so they are calling them things like ISIS and these people are escaping ISIS so it’s very difficult for them,” she said.
El Kurd said more volunteers would help the students adjust and be successful at school but she hopes the district will beef up support as more Syrian refugees will be settled in Texas in the coming years. “There is a humanitarian need and we need to address it,” she said.
Austin ISD was unavailable to provide a comment for this story. But according to the district’s website there is an Office of Refugee Family Support. The latest data provided shows there were 675 refugee students for the 2013-2014 school year.
Presuming each has a mother and father and at least one other sibling – although it’s usually 3-4, and the data is more than a year old, that number is easily triple 675.
The office meets with school staff for training about the refugee population and assists families with school business.
Ideally, new refugee students are placed in a Newcomer’s Program where they receive daily beginner ESL instruction and English language support.
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