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How lockdown exacerbates the barriers faced by kids from refugees and migrant backgrounds

We’re all finding Victoria’s fifth lockdown tough, but many kids from refugee and migrant backgrounds are facing even more barriers regarding their education, mental health, and wellbeing.

Soheila, our Programs Manager, works directly with RMCC kids every week. We asked her what these barriers look like.

What challenges are RMCC kids facing with remote learning?

Soheila: I think the biggest one is the lack of interaction with their teachers. For many younger kids in primary school, online learning means they are only connected to the teacher for 20 minutes and given a lot of schoolwork to do unsupervised – that can be quite overwhelming!

Kids who don’t speak English as their first language or have a shy personality might be reluctant to ask for help, and not being able to complete the tasks can make them lose confidence and withdraw from their learning. That’s why many RMCC kids fell behind in numeracy during last year’s extended lockdown.

Other kids have difficulty concentrating – staying focused on screen for hours is not an easy job, even for adults! And if kids have to take care of their siblings while they study, it makes them even more easily distracted. We could see the look of frustration in their face – they want their own space, they want to participate and engage in the programs, but they can’t, which is very unfortunate.

Some parents face language barriers that can make it difficult to ask teachers for extra support for their children, and other parents are working and unable to actively supervise their children’s remote learning.

The digital divide remains an ongoing problem too. RMCC kids are lucky to be supported by our Tech-to-Connect donors who have provided them with access to Chromebooks and internet access at home, but not all kids from refugee and migrant backgrounds have access to online learning tools. And that will disrupt their learning.

 

How are RMCC kids coping mentally with lockdown and school closure?

Soheila: A lot of kids are struggling with boredom and isolation. They told us “I feel really bored during lockdown because I have nothing to do”. They also talked a lot about how they missed their friends. They were all excited to see their friends after their school holiday yet had to go into lockdown right after! It’s the isolation that takes a toll on their mental health, especially because most kids’ social interactions are restricted to school hours because their parents are too busy with work to take them to fun activities and events after school.

How is RMCC helping our kids during lockdown?

Soheila: Apart from providing them with ongoing mentor support to help with their schoolwork, we are providing a chance for them to interact with their friends and mentors through zoom sessions online and also designing engaging, mind-stimulating activities for them to do off-screen. We understand how friendship and having a good role model are vital to their development, so our mentors are always there as a friend they can count on for support. Most importantly, we listen to their needs and tailor our programs to answer them. It warms our heart to hear RMCC kids say they are looking forward to our weekly program, as this is where they can build life-long friendships with other kids and their mentors, where they can truly be themselves and just, you know, be kids.

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