Manitoba could see hundreds of school-age Syrian refugees in new year
Preparations are underway in Manitoba schools to ensure refugees get emotional, educational support
Plans are already underway to welcome newly arriving refugees from Syria in Manitoba schools, according to Education Minister James Allum.
Right now the province is planning for up to 700 school age children in the new year, Allum said.
"That's the premise that we are working on at this point," said Allum. "We will be able to adapt to those circumstances. After all, there's a strong interdepartmental team working together on ensuring the full range of supports for families when they arrive."
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The province is preparing for up to 2,000 refugees fleeing Syria's civil war to arrive in Manitoba by the end of February.
Allum said students will undergo assessments to ensure families receive the academic and emotional support they need.
"It's perfectly understandable that when a child comes from war-torn circumstances like they're coming from, that they may have mental health issues, they may be traumatized in some manner," said Allum.
"That's part of the assessment process as well. To make sure that we properly understand where the child is at present upon arrival and ensure that they have the supports in place and the resources in place."
"Our understanding is that we should plan for 600 to 700 school aged children coming into our schools," said Allum. "We are certainly preparing for many possible scenarios. If we need to beef up resources in one area whether it's staffing, whether it's for interpreters, whether it's for counselling, all those things will be in place to ensure the family is stabilized, that the children feel comfortable in their surroundings and that they can feel welcome here in Manitoba."
Mark Wasyliw, chair of the Winnipeg School Division, said information packages are being distributed to school principals that list resources available to help families as they transition.
"We do have a lot of experience dealing with refugees at the Winnipeg School Division," said Wasyliw. "We are comfortable with what we're expecting, and we are sort of prepared for some of the problems that are going to come up. So, we are trying to give as much information out to our principals and senior staff because they basically are going to be the front-line workers. They are going to see these children on a day-to-day basis."
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Wasyliw said the division employs clinical assessment resource teams to help children with special needs and children who have lived through traumatic situations.
There are also cross-cultural workers to help refugee and immigrant families integrate their children with the Winnipeg School Division.
"They may be coming from a very different system of education, and obviously we know a very different culture," said Wasyliw. "This helps smooth things over — explain to the family how we do education in Canada, what are sort of the expectations and to answer any of their questions."
Wasyliw said this can be challenging for students, but he remains confident.
"Young people tend to be very adaptive, and they tend to do better than many adults," said Wasyliw. "I think if we give them the right supports, we'll make a challenging event maybe less so."
Wasyliw said the division is looking forward to welcoming the students.