Teaching our young refugees English is essential
I recently read an interesting article that I ran across from The 74 Million. “As Immigration Battles Heats up Across the U.S., California District Faces its Own Refugee Crisis” was an informative article on how the Cajon Valley Union School District is on the brink of a breaking point with the influx of hundreds of Syrian children that require millions of dollars. Dealing with trauma, learning a new language and remedial education is necessary to get them quickly up to standards in their grade levels.
This is not an easy task. Since August 2016, the District has enrolled nearly 800 new students, most of them survivors of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and the deplorable war conditions these young children were subject to. Out of the more than 11,000 Syrian refugees who came to the U.S. in the last year, nearly 60 percent were children.
Superintendent David Miyashiro has championed efforts in Washington, D.C. to lobby for additional federal funding for El Cajon’s own refugee crisis. He has a heart for these children and understands the threat of being feared by the federal government with his relatives stripped from their home and placed in internment camps during World War II.
Miyashiro stated that even with the ban, it will not stop the inflow of refugees because many of them are part of a secondary migration. Many that come to the U.S. eventually find themselves in El Cajon because of its large Middle Eastern population and amenities that make them feel more at home and at ease in the U.S. He estimates that Cajon Valley needs an additional $5.6 million to serve its new influx of students. Hitting several agencies and organizations for help his goal is to make these young kids proficient in English and learn the skills necessary to contribute to both the local and national economy. At this point, he does not believe the District has the funds or the manpower to make this happen. His outlook for the long-term future of these young children is more than admirable it is remarkable. Already the District offers a program in English, Spanish and Arabic, but with the large flow of young refugees, these schools are inundated and many are having to be assigned to the schools that do not have these programs or the staff to fulfill the growing needs. He stated that regardless of the current administration’s stance on immigration, this problem would stay a large part of El Cajon’s future.
I do not know what to say about where to find this kind of money, but it is needed to help these young children assimilate into the American culture as quickly as possible. It is not only for their benefit but ours as well. They are here, and they are on their way to becoming American and without the proper resources will never become a congregated part of American society. But what I do believe we can do as a community is to help these young refugees with their first step towards catching up so that they can succeed in school and move forward with their lives with more confidence and less condemnation.
Help them learn English as quickly as possible. And this is where the East County community I believe can help.
Many students go through Cajon Valley learning much of their education in their native tongue, then as they hit their middle and high school years have to start learning English quickly in order to fit in and participate fully in school activities. It is also essential for them to do so to reduce the amount of persecution that many of them face. But if we begin teaching these young children English at the earliest age, one of many transitions would become much easier. But this takes leadership to enact such a plan.
I fully believe that we have the resources right here to give these children one-on-one training in English from those in our community that have gone through this process before. If you put a Syrian adult with a Syrian child for English tutoring, they will learn quickly. The younger they are the faster they will learn. Although this is a small part of a much bigger problem, I am certain that this is the first stage in getting these children up to speed so that they can be integrated into the classrooms with the other American English speaking children.
Leaders is what we need, and we have several resources that I believe that can combine efforts to go before the District and offer a plan of one-on-one English tutoring at no cost to the District, other than probably a safe venue for learning.
Between the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Iraqi Center for Dialogue, Laubach Literacy Council (which is already doing this) and others, I think this little pipe dream can come to life.
Regardless of where these children come from now, they are a part of the future of America and most important, our communities that we live in. If you speak the dialects of Arabic or Persian from where these children come from and have a command of the English language, you can be the one to help make the transition for these young children easier and better them for a place in society.
Something has to be done about this and this is one idea that I would like to take to a further discussion. Am I a dreamer that I believe that this small portion can be done within the community? If so, I am all right with that.