School programs help Afghan children thrive in Canada

June 24, 2022—Ottawa, Ontario

The Government of Canada continues to work hard to resettle at least 40,000 Afghan nationals as quickly and safely as possible. Since August 2021, Canada has welcomed a total of 16,270 Afghan refugees, including over 3,800 school-aged children.

As we mark the end of the school year, we are proud that children of recent Afghan newcomers have access to a safe school environment where they can learn and successfully integrate into their new communities. This includes many young women and girls who might not have had the opportunity to go to school in Afghanistan.

Since August 2021, schools across Canada have been welcoming and supporting Afghan children in more than 90 communities. The Saskatchewan Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) Program has helped implement special academic, physical education and skills programs to help children successfully integrate into their classrooms. In Saskatoon, as part of the SWIS Refugee Language Program, Afghan children were given extra support to improve their English language skills, all while learning about Canadian culture and geography.

Through the support of the settlement workers at the Surrey Schools Welcome Centre in British Columbia, the Surrey School District alone has welcomed over 550 Afghan children. The workers created welcoming and inclusive spaces for children by providing school supplies, access to breakfast and lunch programs, and school transportation. Dari- and Pashto-speaking settlement workers also delivered cultural awareness training sessions to educators and support staff.

In St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Association for New Canadians SWIS Program provides in-person programming and activities for newcomer children in all grades. Students are offered access to online learning, tablets and English as a second language resources, while they await permanent accommodations. These children also benefit from mentorship programs and after-school homework clubs to improve their English and social skills in a safe and supportive environment.

Thanks to these schools and programs, newcomer children have the support they need to learn, play and succeed in their new school community.

Quotes

“Every child deserves the opportunity to learn in a safe environment and pursue their dreams to the fullest. These outstanding programs are making a real difference in the lives of Afghan youth by helping them settle in their classrooms and welcoming them with open arms, so that they can thrive in their new communities. We will continue to work tirelessly with all our partners to ensure their success as they adjust to their new life in Canada.”

– The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

“Working with Afghan refugees has been a job that has been very fulfilling and rewarding as a SWIS worker. Schools have put in extra effort to make sure the students have what they need to learn, play and participate, just like their classmates. It has been challenging and time-consuming as SWIS works through a multitude of barriers, such as language, cultural differences, mental health struggles, transportation, finances, programming, winter clothing, electronics for learning and so on. Overall, the families and schools have been extremely appreciative of the work I do as their SWIS worker, and I could not do it without the support of our interpreters.”

–       Stephanie April, SWIS worker in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Quick facts

  • SWIS is a school-based initiative under the Settlement Program aimed at integrating newcomer youth and their parents and guardians into the Canadian education system. SWIS services are also provided to school staff to encourage cultural competence and raise awareness of newcomer needs and supports.
  • Over 3,800 Afghan newcomer children eligible for school, from ages 4 to 18, including nearly 1,900 Afghan girls, have been admitted to Canada under the Afghan initiative since August 2021.
  • Surrey, B.C., with 130 elementary and high schools, is home to the largest and most diverse school district in the province. It serves about 10,000 clients annually, and is the core settlement support to English language learners.
  • This past June 20, World Refugee Day, Minister Fraser announced a contribution agreement with Kids Help Phone to provide counselling services for Afghan and Ukrainian youth in Dari, Pashto, Ukrainian and Russian.

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