Students go online to make sure their English lessons for refugees can continue
Written by Martin Steers on June 23, 2020
Young refugees and asylum seekers in Northampton have been learning the lingo online during the pandemic thanks to students from the town’s university.
In September, the University of Northampton’s Student Action for Refugees (STAR) group began to run weekly English conversation lessons with asylum seekers and refugees at Waterside campus.
When the pandemic hit the UK, instead of ending the lessons, the students decided to take them online using the Zoom app.
“We were determined to carry on and not let the situation stop us,” said STAR president, Natasha Murphy, who is one of the seven students who take part in the lessons.
“It’s been important to keep in contact with the people we had been helping, and also good for us students too, as it has helped everyone cope a little better with the isolation. It’s also meant the students have been able to keep up their volunteering, even when they’ve moved from Northampton to their home towns.
“Over time we have got to know the refugees and asylum seekers really well, and have forged strong bonds with them. We didn’t want to abandon that and it’s been really rewarding to keep it going.”
The users of the service are aged between 17 and 21, and are members of the Learn 2 Live youth club which supports young refugees and asylum seekers in Northampton.
Natasha said: “They’ve been through a lot and end up in the UK with the aim of starting a new life, and it can be a very difficult time for them.
“We have people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iraq and Iran who have fled military regimes, civil war or have had their land taken from them.
“Our conversational classes are a way in which we can help them assimilate into life here, in a fun, relaxed way. It’s a simple thing, but it means so much to everybody involved.”
Find out more about the University of Northampton’s STAR group on the Students’ Union website.