Can you imagine having to leave behind your home, friends and family and going on your own to a new country you know nothing about? That’s what refugees have to do to get away from war, famine and other terrible things going on in their home countries.
Enquire, recently went to Anniesland College in Glasgow to meet Beza, Yusuf and Melissa, three young people who are refugees from Eritrea, Somalia and the Republic of the Congo. Despite the hard times they have gone through, all three are still really keen to learn.
The classes at Anniesland are making a big difference in their lives – not just in helping them to learn English and adapt to life in a new country, but also giving them the chance to make new friends. “I’m happy to understand the people and to share conversations”, Yusuf says, “We feel like a family… We trust each other. And we work very hard, we help each other.”
It’s not easy for them though: “the thing is, our country we learn some kind of different things than is here and the questions is different, teacher is different, everything is different”, Yusuf said. Waiting to find out if they are allowed to stay in Scotland is really hard too: “It’s very difficult to concentrate for the learning because you just think about the answer Home Office gonna give you”, Melissa told us.
‘Respect’ in Arabic. Yusuf’s contribution to a class mural.
To listen to what else Beza, Yusuf and Melissa had to say, click on the podcast chapter headings:
Chapter 1 – Settling in – the challenges of trying to learn English and being somewhere so different (Did you know that in the Congo and in Somalia, school starts at 7.30am?!); why community helps you settle in; and the support they got from the A.S.I.S.T project, the Scottish Guardianship Service, the Red Cross and their families to secure a place at college.
Chapter 2 – Learning experiences : we hear what an ESOL course is and why it’s more than just English lessons and find out how being uncertain about their future in Scotland makes it hard for these young refugees to focus in class. Melissa has good things to say about how easy it is to approach teachers here tho “you are free to talk to your teacher, you can share something with your teacher”, and Yusuf tells us about how the Somali way of building schools is different: in Somalia,‘we don’t wait to build a school the Government,we build ourselves ..we make a decision ourselves” -Inspiring!
Chapter 3 – Beza talks about how the Scottish Guardianship service has helped her. “when I arrived here, and she take me to my social worker and I think she helped me, everything! She gave me support, not only for education, for all my personal things, like appointments. When I have like bad mood, I called her and she will came and take me out … we can meet new friends, new people, so we don’t feel alone. Like, I stay without family but they make me happy and forget all of things like the back history”.
Chapter 4 – The young refugees share their advice and dreams for the future: two of their top tips are to study hard and to learn English.”Don’t give up, just keep going and have a choice” says one. ”Don’t forget where you come from”, says another.And their dreams? The strong theme is “to help in my own country and the people who need help also”.
If you’re affected by any of the issues in this podcast, call the Scottish Refugee Council for free on 0800 085 6087 (Mon – Fri 9.30-4.00).
The Scottish Guardianship Service supports unaccompanied asylum seeking and trafficked children and young people, helping them access the support they need to rebuild their lives and make informed decisions about their future.
Enquire would like to thank Beza, Yusuf and Melissa for sharing their experiences and thoughts with us and Lyn at Anniesland College for her support.
Last but not least, here’s a transcript of the interviews if you’d rather read them instead of listening.
Jeni: Hello, shall we introduce ourselves first? So I’m Jeni
Melissa: I’m Melissa
Beza: : I’m Beza
Yusuf: : And I’m Yusuf
Jeni: Hello, hi. And welcome. So Yusuf, it would be sodewou, and Beza , in kwahn deh-na meh tash and Melissa, bienvenue. I’m in Glasgow today at Anniesland College, talking to Yusuf , Beza and Melissa who are studying English together. They share something unique: that they are all refugees and that they all arrived in Scotland on their own. I’m delighted to be here, so thank you for taking the time to talk to Enquire and for sharing with us your experience of learning here in Scotland. Now, when did you arrive in Scotland?
Melissa: In 2012, August
Beza: I came here in 2011
Yusuf: Came here in 2010
Jeni: Ok, and what country do you come from?
Melissa: I’m from Congo, republic
Beza: I come from Eritrea
Yusuf: I am from Somalia
Jeni: How did you get your college place?
Beza: I have got support from Assist and from Guardianship and the woman who work from Assist, she take me here and I registered. Yeah
Yusuf: Just my family support me to get a college, they fill me, they fill the form for me and we send it to college and I have been waiting for 8 month and then I finally get it, the course.
Melissa: The Red Cross helped me to get a place
Jeni: What’s difficult about studying here in Scotland?
Melissa: The difficult thing is because here we start in English and for me English is not my first language, it was very difficult before but now it is …
Jeni: Good, so as your English is improving, you’re finding it a bit easier?
Beza: The difficult was the pronunciation and the same as Melissa, it’s not, it’s not our first language and it was difficult when I came here the first time, but now I think I improving my language and it’s easy now, it’s good.
Yusuf: : To be honest, the first time I came this country, I couldn’t speak very well English, but today I’m improving the way I’m speaking and I have done last 3 years was fantastic and today, I’m happy to be, to understand the people and to share conversations, some kind of stuff like that.
Jeni: Lovely, thank you, and what’s really good? I remember you mentioned to me last week that you’ve got a very special class here at Anniesland
Jeni: What’s special about it?
Melissa: Uh, our class is like family. Yeah, yeah. Very friendly and we enjoy.
Beza: Our class is special from other class, because we are not only learning English, we are doing other stuff and the students and the teachers, it’s like family. We don’t feel like we come here from other country. We feel like home, so it’s nice, it’s really nice.
Yusuf: We feel like a family, is brothers sisters. We trust each other, there is all honest people, you know what I mean and I’m very happy about that. And we work very hard, we help each other.
Jeni: So how are you finding your new routine at college? Because it can be very different can’t it?
Beza: It’s very different than back home. So it’s nice, it’s really nice, and we can get the education easily. The teachers can give us, like, easily a way that we can understand quickly, so it’s good.
Melissa: And for me, it’s different because in my country the class start at 7, half past 7, but here you can start at half past 9, this is a difference.
Jeni: Ok great, so it’s a lot earlier at home?
Jeni: And did that take a bit of time to get used to?
Jeni: Yeah, sort of changing your body clock a bit
Yusuf: In my country, the school, you have to be there half 7
Yusuf: So this is earlier than in this country, so, and the thing is, our country we learn some kind of different things than is here and the questions is different, teacher is different, everything is different.
Jeni: Good and did it take a while to settle in to the new routine?
Yusuf: Yeah – absolutely yes
Jeni: You’re on a college course all together called ESOL, what does this mean?
Melissa: ESOL mean English for speaker other language.
Jeni: And what other languages do you speak – Yusuf: , what languages do you speak?
Yusuf: I speak all my language called Somalia
Beza: My language is Amharic. The main language in Eritrea is Tigrinya, but I left my country like earlier, so, I can understand but I couldn’t speak very well and I can speak English as well.
Melissa: I speak French, and Swahili is the African language and Lingala, a little bit, and English as well.
Yusuf: So how many languages do you speak?
Yusuf: Oh that’s, you’re better than me – I only speak 2.
Jeni: All these beautiful languages! So how long have you all been learning English for?
Yusuf: : To be honest, I have been learn English 2 years
Melissa: 7 months, yeah. 6 months here at Anniesland college and 1 month to Chrysalis class – a Red Cross organisation for refugees – yeah, and I learn English there.
Beza: I have been 2 years, the same as Yusuf:
Jeni: Great, so what else do you cover in your ESOL class? Do you do anything else apart from English?
Melissa: We learn English, we learn maths, citizenship, ASDAN
Jeni: What’s ASDAN?
Beza: ASDAN is to go to outside and visit different kind of like museum, and about the plant, the leaves. We have learned about different kind of leaves on trees and we went volunteering, yes.
Jeni: Ok lovely, so it’s sort of developing you in a broad way, in a big way? Beyond your English?
Jeni: And what support do you get for your learning?
Yusuf: When I finish the class, I go to another class, the teacher called Gary, he helping me and my brother and another guy. We only three guys and it’s a small class. He helping us about the thing is homework, the thing you struggling, the thing you understand, know what I mean? And also he learn us the thing, like, we should learn, the thing we need to learn ‘cause he understand what we need and he knows what we need, know what I mean, ‘cause he a teacher.
Beza: I have extra maths in afternoon and I have extra education when, like, when I’m not understand and my teacher help me individual and it’s good.
Melissa: For me, I think, we have homework, is help, and we have quiet study every Monday is helpful, yeah.
Jeni: Is there any kind of support that would be helpful for your learning – is there anything else you would like to support your learning?
Melissa: Extra time for exam
Melissa: Can be helpful
Jeni: So some young people tell us that they find it difficult to concentrate at school and college and this can be because they are worried about something or maybe because they’ve had a bad night’s sleep. Do you ever find it a bit difficult to concentrate when you’re learning?
Melissa: Yes sometimes, can I say, it difficult to be concentrate when you have some problem. Like people who don’t have a paperwork for live here in the UK.
Jeni: Permit for living here?
Melissa: Yeah, a permit, it’s very difficult to concentrate for the learning because you just think about the answer Home Office gonna give you and sometime if you have a problem with your family, or an argument with your mum or dad, you have stress, it’s very difficult to concentrate.
Beza: Yes it happens sometimes, not sometimes, usually, but, I try to move out from these feelings. I’m going to for a walk or watching TV, something like that. I forget like that, but sometimes it happens.
Jeni: That your worries affect your learning?
Yusuf: Honestly for me, I don’t think I have something to stop my sleeping. Maybe if I have exam to worry about, my exam, why you don’t know what you did well, are you going to pass the exam or you failed, maybe that kind of thing.
Jeni: I’m happy to hear that. Could you tell me a wee bit about how the education system is different back home?
Melissa: In Congo, education is very hard, because here I think the difference when teacher talk or teach us in class, some people talk but in Congo when teachers teach, you can’t talk or you can’t argument with your teacher. If you do that, maybe they will beat you or they tell you to leave the college. Maybe they told you to bring your bag to come to talk to the chief or, yeah.
Another different is about homework – if you don’t do homework or something like they give you an exercise or they give you something to do, if you say, ‘I don’t need to do that’ – you can’t say that in my country but here you are free to say ‘I need to do something’. This is a difference between here and my country and there is good communication here between teacher and student: here you are free, you can talk to your teacher, you can share something with your teacher, and that is the difference.
Jeni: And Yusuf, how is it different in Somalia?
Yusuf: The difference is Somalia and the country I am in right now and we honestly, our first, the first thing is we don’t wait to build a school the Government, we build ourselves. And we make a decision ourselves and we decide what we need and we don’t wait anyone, we just do anything ourselves. The thing is, in our country, when you are at school, you have to be, the school we go 5 days except Friday and Thursday, that’s 2 days we’re off but here we’re off Saturday and Sunday and that’s different. At our school, you have to be there every day and you have to be on time, if you didn’t come on time, they might send you out the school.
SCOTTISH GUARDIANSHIP SERVICE
Jeni: The Scottish Guardianship service is delivered in partnership between Aberlour Childcare Trust and the Scottish Refugee Council, and it helps to support young unaccompanied people through the asylum system. Each young person involved is matched with a guardian who acts as an independent advocate for them, assisting with everything from dealing with lawyers to building up social networks. Beza you have a guardian don’t you?
Beza: Yes I have.
Jeni: Yeah, could you tell me a wee about how the Guardianship project has helped you with your learning?
Beza: A lot!
Jeni: That’s lovely
Beza: I have met my guardian, before I met others, when I arrived here, and she take me to my social worker and I think she helped me, everything! Like, to show place when I start college, I didn’t know the way how to come, and she will take me here. She took me here and to apply other course and we applied last year and I was on waiting list and she phoned them, and asked the information every day. And she take me the appointments, she gave me support, not only for education, for all my personal things, like appointments.
When I have like bad mood, I called her and she will came and take me out, like, for walking or to have tea, something like that, and we going to the cinema, something like that. And they prepare party and when the college is closed or when, like, at Christmas, on the Christmas and Easter and something like that, they prepare a party. They called us and at that time, we can meet new friends, new people, so we don’t feel alone.
Like, I stay without family but they make me happy and forget all of things like the back history, so I don’t know, I can’t say.
Jeni: Thank you for sharing that.
Beza: Yeah, I’m so happy, they make me happy always.
ADVICE AND DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE
Jeni: What advice would you each give to other young people who arrive on their own to Scotland?
Yusuf: Honestly I will give to them, my advice is first of all, don’t give up, please yourself, keep going, hard work. So my advice is, don’t give up just keep going and have a choice, that’s the good thing is if you have a choice, you will do anything, everything you want so that’s my advice.
Beza: First, they need to improve their English. If they improve their English they will do anything what they want to do. It’s a free country and we can get any support and free education so it’s a big opportunity for us, so they need to use this opportunity.
Melissa: The only advice I can say is: don’t forget where you come from and don’t take a bad attitude or copy bad things. Don’t forget your education, when you is young, your education who give your dad, your family and another advice I can say: here Scotland is a good country you can come and don’t be just focussed for the benefit because here they give a benefit. You need to study, to work and enjoy your life.
Jeni: What are you hoping for from your education, what are your next steps?
Beza: I’m going to do another ESOL next year and I want to improve my English very much and I want to study a nursing.
Yusuf: My hope in future is I would like to be a builder or a football player so I have 2 choices. So you need to think about your future because it’s not good thing, it’s not like an easy thing to think about, your future, so this is your future so you need to focus what you’re doing on, you need concentration.
Melissa: I need more English and, like, next year, I need to do ESOL F intermediate and after that I want to be a dentist, yeah. And, maybe I’m gonna apply after next year about this course.
Jeni: Lovely are there any other dreams for the future that you’d like to share?
Melissa: My dream is I need to be a successful singer because I am a singer and I need to get a good job to help poor people and help my country because in my country we have lots of problems – finance problems – and I need to help my country about that, and about the war and have a family. I need to be a mum one day with my husband and my children yeah, this is my dream.
Beza: My dream is to go to Uni and finish and to get a good job and that’s it.
Yusuf: My dream is, like say Beza , to go to Uni, to finish the what I’m looking for and to get a good job to helping me anything I need to how can I get anything I need, know what I mean? For example, to helping me about my family. It’s my turn so I have to help them, a lot of them you know, the way they helped me. I would like to help in my own country and the people who need help also, if I can. That’s my dream.
Jeni: Excellent, well thank you so much for spending time with me today and sharing your experiences and your advice and all your ideas and I wish you every success with your dreams for the future.
Melissa: Thank you
Yusuf: : Me too