Humanitarian refugees and other migrants have welcomed the return of face-to-face English classes by MAX in the Hunter region.
MAX supported students back into the classroom in August after COVID restrictions were lifted in New South Wales.
Fatima, a humanitarian refugee from Afghanistan, moved to Australia in February. She said the return to English classes would make it easier to improve her language skills.
“Face-to-face teaching is a benefit for everyone,” she said. “Working at home I can’t ask my teachers many things to help me, and I don’t learn pronunciation which is very important to me.”
Students on the MAX Adult Migrant English Program and Skills for Education and Employment program also welcomed the social benefit of returning to the classroom.
Researchers have identified loneliness among migrant communities in Australia as a key health risk, with refugees who struggle to integrate suffering from greater levels of stress and physical ill health.
Hamza, a humanitarian refugee from Syria, said the return of face-to-face teaching was a welcome relief after months of restrictions: “Coming back to class is good because I talk with my friends in English,” he said.
Remote teaching, now a common feature of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, can be a challenging experience for both students and teachers.
During lockdown, experienced teachers supported students on the MAX Adult English Migrant Program with workbooks, as well as daily video calls on Webex and a learning management system so they could continue to learn.
The return to the classroom normalises the learning experience for students. But not everything is as it was before lockdown.
“The safety of students and employees was our highest priority before taking a decision to reintroduce classroom learning,” said MAX Business Manager, Judy Barnett.
“To that end, we’ve put in place a strict COVID safe plan. We sanitise our classrooms before, during and after English classes. We’ve also made the wearing of masks compulsory and social distancing is in place in all classes.”