By ARA Volunteer, Alice Brooks
Remember how hard homework could be? The questions are difficult, there are time constraints and you don’t have your teacher on hand to help you when you when you get stuck.
Well, now imagine you’re freshly arrived on Australian shores, you’ve been forced to leave your home country for fear of persecution, war, or natural disaster and you’re trying to tackle homework in a language entirely foreign to you.
That’s the experience of many refugees who come to Australia, and more locally Adelaide, having fled the dangers of their homeland in search of a safe community where they can thrive.
Realising the need to provide extra support to newly arrived students, The Australian Refugee Association kicked off their Homework Club initiative, which has been running since 2006 and aims to support school aged students to excel in their education.
Om Kafley is the Australian Refugee Association’s Program Facilitator and Program Officer for Digital Literacy and facilitates the homework clubs which run across a variety of locations each evening from Monday to Thursday in Adelaide.
“A lot of students come for homework help, mainly because they don’t understand the Australian education system and the assignments, projects and tests as they have only been living in Australia for a short period of time,” says Om.
“Students often don’t understand the questions because of the language barrier or low English literacy and some of the schools don’t have English as a Second Language subject and so they do the same English as everyone else.”
Relying on school support is not enough for students to be able to complete their assignment to the expected level given that most, if not all, have only recently moved to Australia and are learning English for the first time.
“The Homework Club doesn’t just focus on assigned schoolwork, but also aims to improve English conversation, resume and cover letter writing, job searching skills and linking students to services that they require,” says Om.
“The students also have the opportunity to learn about each other’s culture during the homework club sessions, which not only improves their educational journey, but their cultural journey too.”
Om knows firsthand how beneficial the Homework Club is to not only support students in their studies, but also to improve their communication abilities and give new arrivals the opportunity to connect socially.
“I was born in refugee camp in Nepal and spent 17 years of my life being classified as a refugee,” explains Om.
When Om arrived in Australia, he found it difficult to understand the Australian Education system and assignment techniques, so for extra support he participated in the Homework Club from 2014 through to 2015, which he credits as being the catalyst for getting his studies on track.
“When I was a student, the Homework Club gave me lots of support with the assignments and even if I didn’t have homework, I used to go and speak with the tutors who would help with social skills and I’d make new friends.”
Om Kafley, former Homework Club student and now Homework Club facilitator
The students are monitored on their progress and improvement by Om, who says that he sees big progress in a lot of the students, “once they can understand what the expectations are, they can submit assignments on time, understand the questions and are able to successfully complete the assigned work.”
Adila is a year 12 student at Salisbury High School and arrived to Australia from her home country of Afghanistan just two years ago, she now frequently utilises the support services that the Homework Club provides for new arrivals.
“My school teacher posted a link in an email to all of us students to let us know about the Homework Club and see if anyone needed help and that’s how I found out about the group,” says Adila
“English is hard for me and so I come to the Homework Club to ask questions and get help.
“It’s been very helpful to come here and I have been able to make some friends,” she says.
The Homework Club has supported over 700 students, provides 280 sessions annually and has been recognised in the Department of Social Services publication, Empowering Refugees – A Good Guide to Humanitarian Settlement.
The program provides support to students across five locations in the metropolitan region, delivered in a community setting that aims to increase students’ literacy and numeracy skills and transition to formal education in Australia.
The Homework Club is currently in need of more volunteers across their variety of locations to spend 2 hours once a week providing subject specific and English language support to new arrival students.
The Homework Club can work with you to find out your strengths and decide which students would benefit from your particular skillset or background.
The Homework Club days and locations are:
Monday: Twelve25 Youth Enterprise Centre, 17 Wiltshire Street, Salisbury, 4pm—6pm
Tuesday: Adelaide Secondary School of English, 253 Torrens Road, West Croydon, 2.30pm-4.30pm
Tuesday: Al Salam Community Centre, Second Floor, 658 Marion Road, Park Holme, 4-6pm
Thursday: Hamra Centre Library, 1 Brooker Terrace, Hilton, 4pm-6pm
Thursday: Online 4pm-6pm
If you would like to find out more about how you can become a tutor at any of the above locations, please contact Amber Poudel (Youth and Digital Literacy Coordinator) via firstname.lastname@example.org or 08 8354 2951.
ARA also runs a free Youth Hangout for people aged 12-25 every Friday from 4.30PM – 6.30PM at 1 Brown Terrace, Salisbury SA 5108. Activities include games, sports, music, story sharing, information sessions, improving computer skills, and matching mentors and mentorees..
If you’re interested in attending you can contact Amber in the details above.
ARA Homework Club and Youth Hangout are supported by the Australian Government of Social Services and our kind donors.