Syrian refugees welcomed by Nollamara Primary School


Brother and sister Mohammad and Maryam.
Mohammad said he was happy in the classroom.  Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au   d450132
Brother and sister Mohammad and Maryam. Mohammad said he was happy in the classroom. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d450132

The specialist school, which features an Intensive English Centre (IEC), welcomed Year 4 student Mohammad and his sister, Year 2 student Maryam, this month.

They are two of the first Syrian refugees settled in Australia after the Federal Government’s announcement last year.

It is the first time the pair have been to school. Principal Stephen Blechynden said he believed the Syrian families would start “trickling in” to Australia over the next six months to a year.

“The four North Metropolitan IECs are ready and capable of handling the intake of these refugees,” he said.

“They’re the early arrivers; we’re awaiting on notification there will be more arriving.”

IEC deputy principal Maureen Carmichael said the school already catered for 36 refugee students on humanitarian visas who took part in a two-year intensive English program before being integrated into the mainstream of the school.

Ms Carmichael said students needed a year longer in the extensive program than other children who spoke little or no English, as they often had interrupted schooling or unqualified teachers at refugee camps. She said Mohammad and Maryam moved to Australia a month ago after spending time in a Jordan refugee camp.

Their parents and a sibling due to start kindergarten next year joined them, while a fourth sibling was born as the “beautiful family” arrived in WA.

Through an interpreter, Mohammad said: “I like my teacher, I’m happy in the classroom”.

There are 40 language groups at Nollamara PS, including English, Arabic, Mandarin, Punjabi and Somali.

Ms Carmichael said the children, who were capable of quickly picking up English, often went home and taught their parents.

“We’ve got so many different nationalities mixing in together and they just get on brilliantly,” Mr Blechynden said.