More needed for rural refugee students

Published on December 9, 2016

This is written on behalf of the Cumberland County Refugee Networking Group – the refugee sponsorship communities of Advocate Harbour, Amherst, Oxford, Parrsboro and Springhill.

This year Nova Scotia welcomed more immigrants to our province than ever before. The vast majority of Nova Scotians have opened their hearts and communities to those seeking a better life.

Our population increase was in large part because of the influx of Syrian refugees. They have become our newest Nova Scotians and part of our Canadian family. This county was built on immigration and we are all stronger exactly because of our diversity. Our acceptance of difference is what makes Canada a beacon among countries.

As representatives of the Syrian sponsorship communities from across Cumberland County, Nova Scotia we recognize that in many cases learning English is a lifelong exercise. It requires patience, persistence and support from every level of community.

As sponsorship communities we have committed to helping our newest Syrian Nova Scotians with the challenge of learning English. It is a vital factor to the success of their integration into Canadian society.

We have organized volunteers, worked with community partners, service clubs, churches, learning organizations and institutions across this province to provide them with a solid foundation.

We have also worked with our educators to help promote learning. Immigrant students in our schools face very significant challenges.

Given the recent influx of Syrian students into the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, the board has reviewed their support for English as an Additional Language for students. They have decided to increase support for learning in this area.

We applaud this increase because we know first-hand the need is real. It is a step in the right direction.

Offering support(s) for students will help position Nova Scotia as a more attractive province for those looking to begin a new life. This increase is and can become part of a larger strategy for the attraction of new immigrants.

School boards across the province are rising to the new demographic challenges they are facing in terms of providing more English support for immigrants but we need to ensure this support continues and is adequately meeting the needs of our newest students.

Taking the time now to lay a solid foundation is a wise investment in our future.

It is our obligation as a province that welcomes newcomers to be a strong partner in learning.

As sponsorship communities who proudly embrace immigration we ask that both Government and school boards remain attentive and focused on this issue to ensure a brighter future for all Nova Scotians.

Morris Haugg
, chairperson of the Cumberland County Refugee Networking Group