Site Visit - River Nile Learning Centre
Our final site visit this week was to the River Nile Learning Centre, where donors and commiteee members were welcomed by Judie and John. Our special thanks go to them for taking time to show us around as they were in the middle of a move to the floor above, which is more secure and a more suitable space for them.
RNLC helps young African refugee women aged 15-21 who have dropped out of formal schooling to re-engage with their education and build their literacy and numeracy skills. Judie explained that many of their students have come through traumatic and stressful experiences including war, natural disasters, and political oppression. Many of them have had very little formal education, which means their literacy levels are low; the average young woman who comes in to RNLC has a reading age of approximately 7. The girls have often been placed in Australian classes appropriate to their age but beyond their literacy levels, making it almost impossible for them to complete their education.
RNLC provides an accelerated full-time program based around English language and maths. Much of the teaching is delivered one-on-one, and students are also given substantial life skills training and social support which helps them navigate Australian society and deal with issues arising from their former lives. Girls are referred to the program from schools, maternal child health nurses, social services, and some are referred by their friends. Some have come from domestic violence situations and nearly all of them will be living in insecure housing at some stage during their time at RNLC. Judie told us that the girls are helped out with related issues such as navigating Centrelink and health information.
Many of the girls in the program have young children; this can mean many are isolated from their families and dealing with the stress that entails. They want to enter employment to support their children, and River Nile provides the unique opportunity for them to bring their children to school with them. Here you see part of the children’s room where childcare is provided while mothers learn in the classroom. John told us that he believes the little kids benefit from the program not just from the opportunities which will arise from their mum’s education but from seeing their mothers relaxed, safe and happy in an educational environment.
RNLC also has an after-school homework program which helps students, both male and female, enrolled in secondary school or Tafe; they are matched with volunteer tutors who tailor their offering to the student’s needs. RNLC has 50 volunteers who help deliver their intense one-on-one services and while we were there we saw some of the girls developing their skills with their volunteer tutors. Judie told us about a few of their girls; one extremely intelligent girl from Ethiopia was able to increase her reading age by three years in six months with the help of the RNLC program. She hopes to be a doctor and Judie believes she has a good chance of getting there!
Thank you to Judie and John for taking the time to show us around and explain their work!