Syrian siblings settle in

Syrian brother and sister Mohammad and Maryam.
Picture: Martin Kennealey   d450132
Syrian brother and sister Mohammad and Maryam. Picture: Martin Kennealey d450132

The specialist school, which features an Intensive English Centre (IEC), has already taken in Year 4 student Mohammad and Year 2 student Maryam this month, 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 arrivals – we’re awaiting on notification there will be more arriving.”

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

These 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 came to Australia a month ago after spending time in a refugee camp in Jordan.

Their parents and a sibling, who is due to start kindergarten, will join them next year.

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

There are 40 language groups at Nollamara, 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 just got so many different nationalities mixing in together and they just get on brilliantly,” Mr Blechynden said.