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Advocates For Newcomer Students Demand Transparency, Collaboration In APS Program

Hannah Colton / KUNM
Nkazi Sinandile, of the Immigrant and Refugee Resource Village of Albuquerque, speaks at a press conference in support of better educational services for newcomer students. Sinandile announced she plans to hold a hunger strike in front of APS.

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.

Credit Hannah Colton / KUNM
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.

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."


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the Con Alma Health Foundation, and from KUNM listeners like you.

Hannah served as news director at KUNM and reported on education, Albuquerque politics, and anything public health-related. She died in November 2020.
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