20 February 2009
|"Language for integration, language for life!” is the motto at JRS for new language classes in Kampala. (Angela Hellmuth/JRS)|
|Again, young people whose education and lives have been brutally interrupted by years of war are given a chance, however small, of learning in an orderly and peaceful environment.|
The enduring popularity of these classes with the beneficiaries is a pointer to the practical value of the chance to learn a new language in literally transforming the lives of hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers, often entire families.
"Time and again I have had the satisfaction of witnessing timid and nervous people transformed into confident communicators and on the whole happier and more hopeful human beings," says Joe Steven Mande, JRS English teacher in Kampala. Many of them have been able to get jobs and a chance to earn their keep as a direct result of their newfound ability to communicate in English.
Again, young people whose education and lives have been brutally interrupted by years of war are given a chance, however small, of learning in an orderly and peaceful environment. Some of them have been able to go back to school.
Confidence and hope for further education
"A few weeks ago, a young girl I taught in 2005 came running up to tell me she had just passed her Primary Leaving Examinations with a Credit 3 rating in English, and that she hoped to join one of the very good secondary schools in Kampala, since she had got a sponsor to pay her fees there," says Mr Mande. This same girl had left Congo a year earlier when she was attending the Congolese equivalent of Uganda’s Senior Two, but had been rejected in Kampala secondary schools because she did not know English, the language of education in Uganda. So, after attending the one-year course at JRS, she had had to start all over again in Primary Six, and a year later she is bubbling with happiness at her hard-won success.
This is just one of those moments that give great courage in continuing this work, to be able to bring back hope to people who had once lost it, to put smiles back on the faces of little girls and boys, as well as old women and men alike who had forgotten how to smile, enabling them to face the future with anticipation, not fear.
The English classes in Kampala were started in 2004 to give refugees and asylum seekers a chance to learn English, which is the official language of Uganda, thereby removing a major obstacle to their integration among and communication with the local people in the host country. Most of the refugees in Kampala come from Francophone countries, and the problem of a language barrier often presents an additional hardship to their already burdensome and uncertain existence.