January 6, 2016 12:37 am
Updated: January 6, 2016 12:44 am

B.C. schools getting ready to welcome hundreds of Syrian students

WATCH: Metro Vancouver schools are preparing for the arrival of hundreds of Syrian refugee students. As Tanya Beja reports, some of these children have not been in a proper classroom for years.

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Schools around B.C. are getting ready to welcome hundreds of new Syrian students. Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey school districts will open their doors to roughly 300 refugees from Syria over the next two months. Most will be sent to district welcome centres, where learning assessments will first take place. Some schools, like Burnaby’s Byrne Creek, have their own intake programs for incoming refugees.

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“We’ve had students come in who have no formal education in their own country, so writing a paper test is not the best solution. Some of them have never held a pencil before, so they may not know the alphabet,” English Language teacher Mirella Gargiulo said.

“So we bring them in, get them to feel welcome, get them into a classroom, show them around the community and then do some informal testing.”

READ MORE: Syrian refugees–how you can help

Once registered, students at Burnaby’s Byrne Creek Secondary will initially spend half the day learning English, and the rest of the day in skills-based classes like art and physical education.

BC’s Ministry of Education will offer districts up to $3,579 for each full-time refugee student, and an additional $690 for language support. School settlement workers will also help students build ties to the community and adjust to the structure of life outside refugee camps.

“Most of these kids are traumatized,” Burnaby settlement worker Havad Ahmad said. “Either they have witnessed a traumatic event, or been part of a traumatic event — killing, bombing, shelling of entire neighbourhoods. What we do in the school system is really focus on the long-term healing.”

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