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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Somali youth struggles discussed | Edmonton | News | Edmonton Sun

Somali youth struggles discussed | Edmonton | News | Edmonton Sun

Alberta’s school system is failing Somali-Canadian youth, according to a report from the Somali-Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton (SCCSE).
The group hosted a public meeting Friday night at the Nova Hotel to discuss a provincially funded report aimed at answering the question, “Why so many Somali Canadian youth who go west end up dead?”
SCCSE President Jibril Ibrahim said school is a unique challenge for youth from Somalia, who often come from refugee camps and spent their formative years without school.
“People who are coming from refugee camps, they don’t have a system designed for them. They don’t have the educational background ... They come in and we place them in classrooms based on age, not how much they know,” he said.
For those who did receive education in Somalia, language remains a major barrier.
Youth who struggle in school often drop out and wind up turning to crime, sometimes being recruited by gangs or terrorist organizations.
SCCSE spoke with incarcerated young men about issues that led them to criminal activity, and some said their teachers in local schools didn’t understand the disadvantages they faced based on race and class. Some felt they were blamed for their shortcomings and had no one to speak to about their challenges, which sometimes included past traumatic experiences.
Ibrahim pointed to Ontario’s Independent Learning Centre, which gives adults a chance to get their high school education, as the type of program that could help Somalians living in Alberta. He said SCCSE is also working on an education program for people who are incarcerated.
Alberta Education operated an Out-of-School-Time program for Somali-Canadian students at Rosslyn and Killarney junior high schools in Edmonton as a pilot project, which significantly improved student achievement, attendance and behaviour, but the project recently ran out and will not continue due to lack of funding.
Ibrahim said the Somali-Canadian community needs support from all levels of government.
“We need to have sustained funding and programs,” he said.
The SCCSE is advocating for a centre specifically designed to deliver programming for struggling Somali youth.
kevin.maimann@sunmedia.ca

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