KUNM

Advocates For Newcomer Students Demand Transparency, Collaboration In APS Program

Jul 30, 2018

Albuquerque Public Schools plans to open a new program next month for students who don’t speak English and have little to no prior formal schooling. But some say that program is set up for failure. Dozens of advocates and students gathered Monday evening in Albuquerque’s South Valley to call for more transparency and accountability in the way APS designs educational services for immigrant and refugee children.  

Many of Albuquerque’s newcomer students will end up in classrooms without teachers who can effectively communicate with them. That’s distressing to advocates like Peace Izabayo, a former refugee originally from Rwanda who now works as a case manager with Catholic Charities.

"Somebody said it takes so many years to learn English. It doesn’t," says Izabayo. "It takes support to learn English.”

At the press conference Monday, organizers listed many concerns about the program APS is rolling out, including the fact that it won’t serve older students who often have the hardest time learning English, and that there’s no transportation provided to the single site at La Mesa Elementary.

Peace Izabayo, a social worker at Catholic Charities, speaks about the needs of newcomer students at a press conference at the Partnership for Community Action in Albuquerque.
Credit Hannah Colton / KUNM

Advocates from Global 505, New Mexico Asian Family Center, Families United for Education, the Learning Alliance New Mexico, Together For Brothers, the Immigrant and Refugee Resource Village, and other groups just want the school district to work with them, says Izabayo.

“I always say, it took so many people in my life to make me this person," she said. "APS needs all these people to help these [immigrant and refugee] children become the people they want to become.”

Nkazi Sinandile, a longtime advocate, mother and educator, is planning a hunger strike outside APS on Tuesday in order "to demand APS to implement strategies to make sure refugee, immigrant and asylee children receive equitable education."

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