Baztab News

Afghan refugee gains English skills after being forbidden from education

16 May 2018 National Radio TV of Afghanistan

New immigrants to New Zealand often get a bad rap because they don’t know the local tongue, English.

Sometimes, it’s not their fault, because there is a serious shortage of people willing to spend a few hours each week to practise their spoken English skills with.

Shanaz Ghulamsaki could not utter a word of English when arriving in New Zealand in 2014 as a refugee from Afghanistan.

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She was forced out of her village in her homeland, with no time to say goodbye to her goats and cows.

The 26-year-old had lived her entire life surrounded by Afghans who spoke only Dari.

?So when she, her husband and their first-born child were flown to New Zealand she felt completely isolated.

Shanaz has difficulty speaking English and her story is partly relayed through Ann Esterman, a volunteer for English Language Partners who helps refugees and new migrants in learning and practising their new English language skills in conversation.

Ghulamsaki and her husband Abdul spent their first six months in New Zealand at the Mangere Refugee Camp where they were assigned a Red Cross volunteer.

At the camp, Shanaz was taught how to write the alphabet, a completely new concept for her.

It was the first time she had had any classroom education, because where she was in Afghanistan women are not allowed to go to school.

Abdul, however, knew just enough English to get a job in this country.

The Red Cross volunteer assisted the couple to set up a bank account and organised housing.

The Ghulamsaki family spent eight months in Palmerston North before moving to Howick, in east Auckland.

“I like Auckland better, more malls, more things to do here,” Shanaz says.

There are no mosques or any other Afghanistan people in Palmerston North, she says, and when they got to Auckland, Esterman was assigned to Shanaz to help her learn English.

“It has taken three years for her to become comfortable with her English,” Esterman says.

Julia Castles, manager of not-for-profit English Language Partners, says there’s an urgent need for more volunteers to “teach English to migrants and refugees for effective settlement”.

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