Regina teachers group calls for more help with Syrian refugees

A Regina teachers group is raising concerns over the potential lack of resources provided to care for and educate newly arrived Syrian refugee children.

Cites behavioural, psychological effects of fleeing Syria as cause for more support

Jeff Perry is the president of the Regina Public Schools Teachers' Association. (Dean Gutheil/CBC)

A Regina teachers association is raising concerns over the potential lack of resources provided to care for and educate newly arrived Syrian refugee children who will be entering the city's public school system. 

Teachers and the community are doing their part to help the newly arrived students, but now teachers want governments to pitch in too, according to Jeff Perry, president for the Regina Public Schools Teachers' Association.

Speaking with reporters Monday morning, Perry said Regina's public school division has been "forced to react to these immediate needs by reallocating its staff and resources, which in many cases requires taking them away from one student to give to another." 

"Teachers are very worried that no supports have come with these students. School divisions are not adequately equipped to deal with this amount of influx of students," he said.

Refugee students from Syria were at Arcola school Monday in Regina to receive supplies and backpacks to get them started for school. (Dean Gutheil/CBC)

Along with more English as an additional language (EAL) teachers, Perry said, schools also need more resource teachers, educational assistants, educational psychologists and behavioural therapists.

He said that especially with Syrian refugee children the educational process will reach well beyond language barriers, because they're dealing with the traumas of fleeing their home country.

Party leaders respond

When asked about the issue on Monday, Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall cited previous times when there was an influx of students and the government stepped in mid-school-year to provide additional support.

"We wouldn't rule that out again, but it has to be part of a balanced budget," he said. "And now we're also welcoming refugees into the province, which we're proud to do. But there's additional costs there in terms of English as an additional language."

NDP leader Cam Broten speaks with reporters at a campaign stop in Saskatoon on March 21. (CBC)

When asked the same question about assisting school children from Syria, NDP leader Cam Broten framed the issue in terms of challenges facing all schools.

He said that a lack of educational assistants, shrinking support for English as an additional language and a lack of attention to school buildings all accumulate to put strains on teachers. 

When that happens, teachers can't provide the instruction and mentorship that they're trained to do, he said.

Broten touted his party's plan to hire 300 more teachers and 300 more educational assistants as a way to help provide that support for students.