Celebrating World Refugee Day with new refugee school in south Auckland
When Adel Salmanzadeh arrived in New Zealand in 1989, he says there weren't many services for refugees.
Today he works with the Ministry of Education as a senior advisor for refugee and migrant support. He's making sure they have access to top notch services.
And on World Refugee Day today, the Ministry has opened a new school for refugees at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.
"As a [former] refugee and a New Zealand citizen, I'm really proud that there haven't been any short cuts. [There are] top quality buildings [and] top quality teachers," he says.
There are 12 new classrooms and the budget for the school was $6.9 million. The new school has replaced the formerly used temporary classrooms.
"To have this amazing facility built signifies the level of commitment not just from the government, but every taxpayer. Every citizen will be proud that we don't just bring people here and put them in cold rooms."
Back in the day, he says there were misconceptions that refugees weren't educated.
"I think those misconceptions exist less now because of the Ministry. We spend a lot of money and resources to support refugees and we offer professional development for teachers to increase their awareness about refugees."
The Refugee Education Centre is managed by Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
AUT provides a 6-week programme for refugees under the government quota scheme.
Director and senior lecturer at the Refugee Education Centre, Maria Hayward says the most common request from refugees is: "I want to learn English and I want to learn it quickly.
"Our programme is primarily around teaching English, but we also have a programme which prepares newly arrived individuals for living in New Zealand."
To integrate into society she advises refugees to "take risks and practice the language".
She says they have found that ways of interacting within a learning environment that suit Maori and Pasifika kids and adults also suit individuals from refugee backgrounds. This is because those cultures all emphasise relationships.
Naima Ali arrived in 2000. She is now studying for a Master's degree in Human Rights at AUT.
Like Salmanzadeh, she too cites education as a driving force to progress. She came from an oral way of learning but grasped the New Zealand way which she says involves more of writing.
Although she dealt with a few setbacks in high school, she's come out stronger.
"We are adaptable, we are resilient," she says.
"Now we're rich in two cultures, two languages."