The Scalabrini team works with migrants and refugees every day. With such deep expertise at hand, we take the opportunity to reflect on migration with them. This month we speak to Rhoda, manager of the English School, who finds enormous joy in being able to teach as well as learn from our clients.
1. Education can be a second chance for migrants in a new country
Rhoda did not specifically choose to work with migrants. She wants to work with a community for whom education is a second bridge in life. ‘When the first bridge is burned’, she says, ‘education helps you to build another one.’ Rhoda’s students are not the only ones that are learning. ‘I am learning, I am seeing so many different shades in my own reality,’ she describes. Being able to teach these adults helps her to redefine what teaching really is, and what it can be.
2. We must respect those who have the courage to take a new journey
Hundreds of stories have passed through the English School. For Rhoda, there was one that she will never forget. When she was still a volunteer at Scalabrini, she was filtering people into the correct classes and had to get a conversation going. ‘I looked at somebody and I said to her: ‘How did you get to Cape Town?’ She looked me in the eye, and she said: ‘I walked here’.
Rhoda admires and respects the work it takes to be a migrant. For her, the refugees and migrants that come to Scalabrini are the people that have gotten up and decided to start a journey. She says: ‘I am a worker, I respect work. And I respect someone who says: ‘Now I am going to change the present.’
3. Negative connotations around migration are misled: migration is a multi-coloured, rich picture
Rhoda is humbled by the fact that at this moment, in the beginner’s English class, there is a woman who is busy writing her doctorate. The arena that she works in is deeply diverse. ‘There is a woman who is a diplomat. There are lawyers. You name it – there is one of them in our classes. I wish that people would spell ‘migrants’, ‘refugees’, ‘foreigners’, differently.’
These words have negative connotations – and it is easy to judge that connotation, says Rhoda. She believes that you cannot blame the public for such negative connotations, because people are highly influenced by the media. But Rhoda has been given a rare opportunity: ‘I have seen so many textures in the migrant population. For me it is a rich picture. You could not really blame it on someone that they see it in monochrome.’