In what must have felt like a perilous journey, in 2014 Ibrahim Hassan's father sent his son to join his uncle in Germany. Then just 10-years-old, Ibrahim, travelled by boat across the Mediterranean, to what his family hoped would be a better life. However, the plan did not go quite as expected. Ibrahim's uncle was unable to house the young boy, who was instead placed in a refugee home for teenagers.
In 2015 Ibrahim's family managed to leave Syria for the United Arab Emirates, where they found the stability they needed to bring Ibrahim to their new home. For three years they tried to do so, finally being successful in the second week of September 2018. Like his other siblings Ibrahim joined Safa Community School in Year 7.
It has taken Ibrahim some time to settle back into his family, into a new country and a new school, the latter very different to anything he experienced in Syria or Germany. Ibrahim told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com he was quite anxious before coming to school but the minute he walked in, he couldn’t take his eyes off the astonishing building, school field and classrooms.
“Schools here are so big, they have so many facilities... They also have a lot of rules! It's very disciplined and I would question why I needed to go to this class at this particular time. There’s a lot more structure here but now I understand that everyone needs to follow a timetable and go into the organized classes. I also now know where to go, how to navigate the school to reach my class or a PE lesson,” said Ibrahim.
In addition to getting used to a structured school, Ibrahim is also working on his language skills. The Safa Community student is fluent in Arabic and German, but English is, currently, work in progress.
Stephen Duckitt, the school's principal told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com that Ibrahim is settling well into the school despite his minimum language skills.
“We are providing one-to-one support for Ibrahim. He goes to certain lessons in a classroom setting and he does one-on-one lessons to boost his language skills. We are also choosing the language he’s most comfortable in for a particular topic be it Arabic or German and then of course bringing his English language skills up to a point where he can attend all lessons on his own.”
Mr Duckitt also explained that the key for the school was to integrate Ibrahim into its community, where he should be happy.
“Once he feels happy, settled and part of our community, then he can move to the next level of learning. To be able to focus and learn we need to feel comfortable. It’s the social skills and confidence that he picks up from us which will help him adjust and further his learning. This is a school that’s giving him that chance. But, being realistic, we need to build the foundations first. Once the foundation is set the progress will be exponential,” said Mr. Duckitt.
Staying with relatives, in a refugee home, and away from his family, Ibrahim has faced many challenges at a young age. He has had to make decisions on his own and be more independent. That is clearly helping his entrance into the new school.
Ibrahim is also embracing his strengths. Safa Community School offers German as a language, which Ibrahim enjoys and thinks that it's one subject he’s good at. He also loves history but can’t, currently, attend the lessons due to his limited English language skills. Nadine Hutchinson, Assistant Principal Inclusion told us:
“He goes in the lessons for 10-15 minutes so that he gets the exposure to the classes and lessons. Once the language skills are there he can attend the full lessons. We know he’s in a rush to attend history as he really likes the topics and wants to discuss them!”
According to Daleen Shalaby, the Learning Support Assistant at Safa Community, spends a lot of time with Ibrahim who says the young boy is naturally a little shy, but very observant and picks things up very fast.
“I do all the one-on-ones with Ibrahim and I can already see a lot of progress in the weeks he has been with us. We encourage his communication, as his language skills are still developing. However, he has already made friends with other Syrian and Arabic speaking boys. He has made huge strides in adjusting and settling into a new country, reuniting with his family and with the progress in his learning journey with us.”
Ibrahim has had knee surgery in both his knees in Germany but he still loves PE.
“I love football and I am also very good in swimming and football. I really want to be a part of the school team for both these sports. I am looking forward to attending after school sports activities from next term to become better at sports,” said Ibrahim.
Ibrahim's journey to the UAE and to Safa Community School is obviously a good news story, and one that makes the world seem just a little better. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com was left hugely impressed with both Safa Community and Ibrahim himself after seeing the young student embarking on this new journey. We look forward to meeting up with him again a little further down the road when, we hope, Ibrahim will not only be speaking fluently, but busy scoring goals for the Safa Community football team.