Thirteen Syrian refugee families who have recently settled in Northern Ireland under the Vulnerable Syrian Refugee Resettlement Scheme attended South Eastern Regional College’s (SERC) recent ‘Education for All’ seminar.
The event at the college’s Lisburn Campus gave the refugees, some of whom are now living in Lisburn and neighbouring areas, the opportunity to learn about the many further and higher education courses SERC offers.
To date the local college has helped more than 50 Syrian refugee families resettle in Northern Ireland.
The conference was aimed at helping Syrian refugees who have fled or been forced out of their home and sought refuge here in Northern Ireland due to the ongoing civil war which began in 2011.
The seminar included an overview of the further and higher education System in the UK, vocational education, education provision at SERC, comparison of Syrian qualifications - UK NARIC, English classes available at the College, admissions process, routes to Higher Education, and finished with a question and answer session. Arabic interpreters were also on hand to help with language barriers.
The event was an opportunity for SERC to explain the education system in Northern Ireland and qualifications equivalency to the refugees. Attendees also availed of individual assessments with careers staff who offered guidance on pathways to skills development and training they would need to make a new life here.
SERC’s International Officer Zia Nazar said: “As most refugees arrive with little or no English language experience, SERC have been proactive and delivered formal English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes to the local communities and provided pre ESOL classes for absolute beginners which were tailored to meet their needs to help them integrate into their local community.
“The aim of the event was to help settle the vulnerable refugees into the way of life here, helping to set them up with employment and family cohesiveness, during a time of turmoil. The scale of the Syrian refugee crisis and the challenge of mitigating a ‘lost generation’ of the education of Syrians is a critical one.”
He added: “Supporting the refugees in enrolling onto courses in the region is the first systematic project to be undertaken by the college and will help hundreds of refugees to adjust to a new life here in Northern Ireland.”
SERC’s international team not only support the refugees to access education but have actively supported the families as they settle into their new community. The team work closely with the families to make them feel welcome and go above and beyond to support them as they make their new life here. The dedicated international staff have taken time outside of work to take the refugees shopping, introduce new families to the community and signpost them to meet their religious needs.