Source: CBC News
Refugees in Calgary could be hurt by a provincial budget cut in English as a second language education.
The provincial ESL Enhancement Fund, which helps refugees who have left violence in their homelands learn English and general social skills, was cut from the 2011-12 Alberta budget.
Carol Berndt, system assistant principal of the CBE’s English Language Learning program, said they received more than $4 million last year for these students.
“Many of whom who have never been to school and they require [a] very intensive kind of English language support, numeracy development, literacy development,” said Berndt.
The ESL Enhancement Fund started several years ago as a grant to top up regular ESL programs. Last year, the province gave out $11 million for the fund.
Hieu Van Ngo, a member of Calgary’s Coalition for Equal Access to Education, said this cut affects the most vulnerable. It’s particularly questionable, Ngo said, as the city’s immigrant population continues to grow.
“They struggle socially, academically. They do not feel a sense of belonging in Canada, and we don’t have a program in place to support these young people,” he said.
Calgary has half of all ESL learners in the province, although not all students directly benefit from the ESL Enhancement Fund.
Berndt said they still get money for other ESL programs and she hopes schools can somehow find a way to keep the enhancement programs going.