Equity & Diversity

A Shortage of ESL and Adult Ed. for Iraqis in El Cajon

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 15, 2010 1 min read

Not long ago, I wrote about how two school districts in El Cajon, Calif., were trying to address the needs of Iraqi refugees arriving in that community. You might remember that El Cajon Valley High School was receiving a stream of Iraqi teenagers who didn’t have any high school transcripts.

I wrote about how El Cajon Valley High School’s policy is to turn away Iraqi teens who are 18 and older and refer them to adult education. The high school also turns away some 17-year-olds as well, if they can’t show a good record of attendance, grades, and behavior.

The San Diego-Union Tribune published a story this week describing the state of adult education for immigrants and refugees in El Cajon. Basically, the school districts and community colleges there that provide English and other adult education classes can’t keep up with the demand.

So where does that put some of those 17- or 18-year-old Iraqis who were considered too old to enroll in El Cajon Valley High School?

And what is a good solution to addressing the needs of older youths who are arriving in a community and are hungry to learn but have large gaps in their education? When it comes to refugees, should the U.S. Department of State, which makes decisions about how many refugees to accept from particular nations, be providing more funding to some of these top refugee-resettlement communities to provide educational services?

What might services to Iraqi refugees look like if with every dollar Congress approved to pay for the war, it also had approved a dollar to address the humanitarian impact of the war? Do most members of Congress even know what’s going on with Iraqi resettlement in El Cajon?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.