Otago Polytechnic

A cohort of 20 young people with refugee backgrounds will graduate from an innovative Otago Polytechnic programme on Monday 11 February. 

The Former Refugee Youth Summer Programme, which is now in its third iteration, puts 20 young people (aged 16-21) through a summer programme that includes:

  • Studying towards their learner car licenses
  • Volunteering
  • Sport and fitness
  • English language
  • Future planning

The free programme is funded by Otago Polytechnic and Otago Community Trust, and involves partnerships with the Red Cross and Ministry of Education.

“We enable the learners to sit their licence tests with an interpreter, and we organise volunteer and orientation towards work opportunities for them. It’s a recognisably impactful programme,” says Aaron Blaker, Team Leader of Otago Polytechnic’s English Language Centre.

“In 2015, when it became apparent that there was a need for New Zealand to respond to the refugee crisis in Syria, Otago Polytechnic joined forces with other stakeholders and put in a proposal for Dunedin to become a refugee resettlement centre.”

The proposal was successful, and Otago Polytechnic soon had students with refugee backgrounds enrolling to learn English. As time has gone on, former refugee learners have also entered Otago Polytechnic programmes such as IT and engineering.

Aaron hopes Otago Polytechnic will become a model for former refugee education nationally. He already has plans to help ease the transition for older students, who often have high-level experience in vocational fields but no evidence of their qualifications.

“The refugee background students don’t see themselves as victims – they’re very resilient and keen to get moving after many years of being in limbo.

“For many of the women, this may be the first time they’ve been able to participate in public education. They are just flying, and it’s quite a buzz.”

Equally importantly, the students contribute greatly to the cultural engagement and vibrancy of Otago Polytechnic.

“We have cultural and communication exchanges, mentorships and projects with students from a wide variety of programmes – including Social Services, Occupational Therapy, Counselling and Design,” Aaron says.

“We also run Cultural Diversity workshops with several short-course groups.

“Many New Zealanders have not had direct contact with people from such a different life and cultural background.

“Our domestic students – and international visitors – learn and grow through such experiences and interaction.”

Read more about our International programmes


Published on 7 Feb 2019

Orderdate: 7 Feb 2019
Expiry: 31 May 2019