Raising awareness about inclusion in schools

April 11, 2018

The Multicultural Association of Fredericton was very happy to lead a Nation-wide project here in our province (New Brunswick). Our topic is “Inclusion In Schools, as it’s a topic that needs lots of attention here in our province. This project is led by Rutonde Shekina, and Mohammed Zakaria, two newcomer youth from the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, with support from EQUITAS. Due to our subject and topic for this project, we had to make it a provincial commitment, and collaboration with many other like-minded organisations. Our provincial partners are: Saint John Multicultural and Newcomers Resource Centre, Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area, Charlotte Street Arts Centre, La Maison des jeunes L'acAdo Inc.

This project brought together Canadian and newcomer youth from across New Brunswick. The youth met over a course of 4 Saturdays at the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, and met once at the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton area (MAGMA), to talk, connect, share ideas, play group games, talk about burning issues that Immigrant youth face on daily basis in schools. The challenges we face as newcomers, listening to Canadian born teachers in class rooms, stereotypes, language barriers and self esteem. The youth also talk about religion, dress and how it’s also hard to secure jobs due to cultural barriers. It was also great to know that many youth were already working in their home country before coming to Canada.

Here is a quote from one of the youth participants, Obadah Al Haj Ali:

“I was in a coffee shop with my friend, and we over heard a Canadian saying that, those immigrants does not want to work or go to school. They just want sit at home”.

Obadah, a Syrian youth, is working, playing soccer for a Varsity-Reds, and also been accepted to further studies in the University of New Brunswick. On the flip side, the Canadian youth says they feel comfortable in classes, and can understand the teachers well as they speak. Most of them get jobs (part time or full time) of their choice. They have no problems with self esteem and language. They only notice that some newcomer youth need help in classes as most of them speaks other languages different from what is normal in Canada (English and French). Newcomers also find it difficult to make new friends, and do not have the motivation to ask questions to teachers during class time.

As the discussions continue over the weeks of planning and meetings, the youth suggest that it would be great if we can find ways on how to catch the attention of teachers. We want teachers to help make us feel welcome on the class rooms, to help break the cultural barriers as much as they can. The youth aim to create tools and materials for teachers, principles, and decision makers, to help them learn on how to make newcomers feel welcome.

As part of our project, we have made a 15 minutes documentary on Inclusion In Schools in NB. This documentary captures the voice and view of NB youth, immigrants and Canadian born youth, and highlights some of the differences and challenges newcomer youth face on daily bases. We had over 22 youth men; youth took part in this project. We also had about 25 woman, female youth involve, with about ten community mentors from our partner organisations.

We decide to pursue this topic and project because we feel like it’s very important for our communities in the East Coast. We bring on-board partners and Canadian born youth because we felt that, solutions can only come when we all work together. We felt that its due time to start learning about our various cultures, to create cultural understanding, dialogues; educate teachers and leaders about diversity and inclusion in schools.

In additions, we also plan to make a colouring and storytelling books that can be use in elementary and kinder-gating classes here in NB. We are working with stake holders, teachers, decision makers, community and cultural leaders, our partners, colleges, to help us reach our goal. We are also hoping that, this documentary can someday get a national attention, to help make our larger Canadian community aware of the strength of diversity.

We would like to officially hold a big launching of this project in the upcoming school year, so that it can be part of the learning material/curriculum in schools. We have introduced the idea to leaders and decisions makers, and they are down with the plan. We want to make the launching as excited as possible.