University of Sunderland helping to give Ukrainian refugees a voice through English lessons
Ukrainians forced to flee their home after the Russian invasion are getting a helping hand to make the most of their time in the UK, thanks to kindhearted students and academics at the University of Sunderland.
Student teachers at the university have been helping Ukrainian refugees living in Sunderland by providing them with free English language classes.
University academics had the idea of getting students studying MA TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) to help out refugees and asylum seekers in the city, with the language skills they have learnt during their time at university.
Dr Michael Hepworth, senior secturer in TESOL, presented this idea to the university and he was awarded £5,000 worth of funding to help launch the scheme.
He said: “This project has allowed the university to play its part in meeting the urgent language needs of asylum seekers and refugees in the city.
"Some may go on to study at the University and, more broadly, all will benefit from learning the dominant language of the communities they live in.
“These communities will also benefit, as our provision will help promote government agendas around employability, citizenship, and social cohesion.”
The University providing these free English lessons has allowed the Ukrainian refugees that arrived in Sunderland, to have community support and opportunities to either learn or develop their English.
The University’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Knight added: “The university is proud to be part of the City of Sunderland and we strive to support our local communities where we can. We were greatly saddened by the war in Ukraine so were very keen to do what we could to help.
“We are uniquely placed to offer English language support to Ukrainian families in the city and it is testimony to our staff and students that they give their time to develop and deliver an important piece of work which we know has greatly helped our new residents settle in Sunderland.”
The project has since hosted two in-person classes for asylum seekers and refugees. The first was a beginner’s class, ‘Working with Everyday English', the other an ‘International English Language Testing System’ class, which helps people prepare for further study.
The team also organised some social events that brought together Ukrainian refugees and people who support them.
Sunderland University has a community-facing and society shaping agenda by helping to lead, support and coordinate, high quality language provision in the city and this is just part of the work they are doing.
Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at the University of Sunderland, said: “I am delighted that the TESOL team were able to respond proactively with the provision of free English language classes for Ukrainian refugees in the City of Sunderland.
“This initiative clearly had a different and important focus and I am immensely proud of the team and especially Michael for taking the initiative to progress this ‘society shaping’ idea.”
The University has worked closely with the Connecting Communities team at Sunderland City Council and the charity Action Foundation to develop a network in Sunderland.