The Manitoba government says it's committing $1.6 million to help refugees new to the province, with the lion's share going specifically toward helping Syrian kids in the classroom.

Premier Greg Selinger made the announcement Monday afternoon and said the investment is meant to boost education supports to help newcomers adjust in Manitoba schools.

Mark Wasyliw, chair of the board for the Winnipeg School Division, said the funding comes at an important time.

"We commend the Manitoba government for this critical investment in the education and inclusion of our newest residents," Wasyliw said in a statement.

"Schools are the hub of our neighbourhoods and it's through the relationships made in classrooms, parent rooms and student events, for both children and adults, that we connect with the community."

The new funds include:

  • $750,000 goes to schools to help refugee students settle in
  • $450,000 is earmarked for more English as a second language (EAL) resources
  • $300,000 in additional funds is being added to the province's Intensive Newcomer Support Grant, which is specifically for refugees and kids from war-torn areas
  • $50,000 is for the Peaceful Village/Manitoba School Improvement Program
  • $25,000 goes to the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba
  • Another $25,000 is for the Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services Centre

The province said it has invested almost $3.5 million to help Syrian refugees resettle in Manitoba since September, adding it has helped bring 254 refugees to this province from Syria thus far.

'Try to get them caught up'

Surafel Kuchem is a teacher who works at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, a transitional housing complex that offers after-school programs and support for refugee kids.

"We try to get them caught up to their grade levels," said Kuchem. "Because of interrupted education -- two or three years being away from the school and trying to get back into it -- you know, your age in the school doesn't match up."

IRCOM also offers after-school programs for young newcomers.

"The kids could be doing a lot of things in the after-school hours. [The program is] taking them away from risky behaviours and engaging them in academic and productive behaviours," he said.

The non-profit also recently added an Arabic-language course for newcomers.