Multi-ethnic play group opens in South Dunedin

Fatima Hamad with her children Mays (1) and Mohammad (3) At-Taleb at the opening of the new Wild...
Fatima Hamad with her children Mays (1) and Mohammad (3) At-Taleb at the opening of the new Wild Things Kotuku multi-ethnic play group at The Hub, Oxford St, South Dunedin. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
The opening of a play group is part of a wider effort from the Ministry of Education to help Dunedin's growing Syrian refugee population adjust to New Zealand's learning environment.

The Wild Things Kotuku multi-ethnic play group, which is aimed at fostering both English and Arabic and introducing families to early childhood education in New Zealand, was opened at an event on Friday.

The opening at ``The Hub'', which is in the old Forbury School buildings on Oxford St, comes as Dunedin's refugee population continues to grow, with the arrival of another group at the start of this month bringing the total population to more than 200.

Of that total, more than 100 are children and the Ministry of Education is playing a significant role in helping those children adjust to the New Zealand education system, including by supporting the play group.

Ministry of Education education adviser Pip Laufiso, who was at Friday's event, said the play group was part of the ministry's wider efforts to help refugee children and parents adjust to New Zealand's
education system.

Ms Laufiso said parents would be present at the play group and able to ask questions and the group would strengthen participants English and Arabic, with group facilitator Nourah Riad speaking both languages.

Ms Laufiso said refugee children were spread around schools across the city and the feedback from those schools over how they were settling in had been ``really positive''.

``The ministry is funding a refugee programmes co-ordinator based at Carisbrook School and she has co-ordinated bilingual workers.''

Those workers helped with enrolments and parent-school interactions.

Some of the initiatives were unique to the city.

``It's becoming a bit of a Dunedin model.''

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said he was ``very excited'' to be at the opening given his connection to the area, having grown up only two blocks away from the old school buildings.

As Syrian children played, he told those at the opening that settling into a strange country had been made easier for refugees because of the welcoming spirit of Dunedin's citizens.


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