In response to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Texas is currently preparing to welcome over four thousand Afghan refugees. The school-aged children among these incoming refugees will need a great deal of support from their new communities to integrate into a unique educational environment. Refugee resettlement agencies in Texas seek volunteer efforts and monetary donations to help schools accommodate incoming Afghan students. Education officials are worried about the lack of facilities and material resources to accommodate students and help them integrate them into their school communities.
In Northern Texas, most school-aged Afghan refugees will attend the International Newcomer Academy in Fort Worth, a school for immigrants from grades six to nine who are new to the United States. Students will typically spend one to two years at the Academy before moving to regular schools in their district. The Academy’s existence reflects promising efforts to help Afghan students integrate into Texan society, but staff members voice concerns about managing the drastic increase in student population. Teachers say that it is easiest to teach their lessons at the Academy with small class sizes since most students learn English as a Second Language and benefit from individualized attention. As more students arrive, class sizes will likely increase from around fifteen to around thirty, altering the teachers’ responsibilities and heightening their workload. Staff members are also concerned about the lack of clarity surrounding students’ arrival timelines. It can be not easy to effectively integrate new students into a classroom community on short notice. However, despite the new challenges, the executive director of the schools’ ESL programs, Cloris Rangel, have said they are ready to receive these new students “with open arms.”
Students who are not in such an Academy will be assessed for their grade level and enrolled in public schools. In Austin, the city with the most Afghan refugees, teachers attend training programs about “cultural competence” to better support the refugee students. It is, of course, not possible for such a professional development course to completely address the complex needs of these students who are living through a crisis that has separated them from their homes and put the lives of loved ones at risk. Community support in all forms will be crucial in these students’ transitions, from donating time and resources to expressing empathy, compassion, and patience. So far, the efforts non-profit organizations have been taking to prepare for the arrival of Afghan refugees set a strong example of community action. For instance, Catholic Charities of Fort Worth and the Refugee Services of Texas have been organizing fundraising efforts and securing necessary items to aid refugee families with resettlement. Despite dedicated efforts like these, schools in Texas will require as much help and financial support as possible as they make way for so many new students. Those who can aid in the efforts to help Afghan refugees in Texas can find out more information from sources like the International Refugee Committee Dallas, The Refugee Services of Texas (RST), and Catholic Charities of Fort Worth.