Sudanese School Children

Reaching for Harmony

ACU and Catholic schools in Brisbane are collaborating to offer additional support for Sudanese students in schools and help prepare pre-service teachers to cater for a range of student needs.

Eleven Brisbane Catholic schools whose students include Sudanese refugee children are now partners in the Refugee Education ACU Collaborating Harmony (REACH) project, with a number of state schools also becoming involved.

Education students will gain practice in catering for students who have low literacy skills but not low abilities, and the partnering schools are enthusiastic.

The project was developed by Brisbane Campus Faculty of Education professional experience coordinator Dr Anne Drabble, in partnership with the Brisbane Catholic Education Office Education Officer Ms Mary-Anne Fleming and African Liaison Officer Mr Machiw chut Machiw, as well as school principals including Mr Joe Miranda of Lady Help of Christians School in Hendra, where these photographs were taken.

"The aim of REACH is to provide an opportunity for my students to gain experience working within a differentiated curriculum," Dr Drabble said.

Ms Fleming, who specialises in English as a Second Language, said the schools were enthusiastic. "Our teachers are looking forward to working with ACU and having the education students in their classrooms," she said.

The literacy activities, which pre-service teachers will be involved with, will include blocks of time with specifically designed ESL activities, as well as volunteer-run homework clubs, pen pal clubs and parents' clubs, where ACU education students will work after school with refugee children and their parents.

"REACH is in its early days, but the potential benefits of the project for Sudanese students and our pre-service teachers are encouraging and reciprocal," Dr Drabble said.

The aim is that education students will gain practical classroom experience with children with specific literacy needs and that refugee children will benefit from greater fluency in English, which will assist their progress, confidence and happiness in their new country.

The idea of two-way benefits, beyond the model of one-way charitable giving, goes to the heart of the University's Mission Engagement and Institute for Advancing Community Engagement philosophies. The emphasis is on real engagement between people who have something of value to offer each other.