The Shelbyville Times-Gazette ran reporter Brian Mosely’s Part IV on the Somalis in Shelbyville today. This one focused on the English language lessons refugees are encouraged to attend—you know, those lessons you are paying for. Judy posted on the other article that made up Part IV here.
The Department of Labor administers grants for the Adult Learning Center, which go through the Bedford County Board of Education. The problem is that Weaver [director of the Learning Center] is not allowed to count students who do not have 12 hours of attendance in the program, including a pre- and post-test.
Last year, Weaver said that almost 100 out of 265 students could not be counted because they did not meet the attendance requirements, and 75 percent of those failing to attend classes were Somalis.
This didn’t particularly surprise me because we saw the casual way refugees treated their English lessons here in Hagerstown also, and most were not Somali. The big push is for refugees to work, and once they get a job learning English is apparently not a priority. But, it isn’t just lack of interest that is a problem, it sounds like the behavior of the Somalis has made it hard for those who would like to educate them.
But differences remain between the English speaking instructors and the Somalis. The Center’s first encounters with the newcomers did not go so well, with the Somalis being described as “demanding, aggressive and argumentative” and very different than anyone they had ever dealt with.
“They are very demanding and I don’t know if that is because their culture in general,” Weaver explained, but she has also been told that Somalis are being taken to Minneapolis after they arrive in America and given classes on “what they should demand, and what are their rights.”
What??? Who is taking them to Minneapolis to teach them what their rights are? If anyone has any information on this we would really like to know, especially if whoever is doing it is funded by the taxpayer!
I guess the following is how their Minneapolis tutors instructed them to act.
In the first year, some Somalis would walk into the building and tell instructors what they required without waiting in line or for an appointment, sometimes interrupting ongoing classes, Weaver said.
Another issue occurred during Ramadan, where two Somalis were asking to leave classes for religious reasons. Weaver admitted she was not aware of the Islamic requirement during this time and would not allow them to go. They returned with representatives of the *Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Center in Nashville who explained how to deal with prayer time.
“I did not understand that if they don’t break their 12 hour fast [during Ramadan] they would have to continue for another 12 hours,” Weaver said. “Once we understand them, it makes it much easier.”
One Somali in particular, who was described as “very impolite” a year ago, has seen much improvement since that time. Others had a habit of slamming their hands on tables while making demands, and they have been told that behavior is not acceptable in America.
* I looked for Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Center and didn’t find anything with that exact name, but found the Tennessee Immigration and Refugee RIGHTS Center here. Oh brother, who is paying for this?