How CWS English Classes Strengthen Urban Refugees’ Self-Reliance in Johannesburg

Jean Guy Kwiumi & Caleb Wafula | April 28, 2017

English Class in Session for the Urban Refugees and Assylum Seekers in Johannesburg

Like anywhere else, refugees and asylum seekers in Johannesburg, South Africa face challenges in meeting basic needs like food and housing. Although some social assistance initiatives exist in the city, they are insufficient in reaching the most vulnerable. At the same time, many refugees and asylum seekers—especially those coming from French-speaking countries—must overcome language barriers while searching for and finding ways to support themselves.

This is where CWS support for English classes is making a significant difference in the lives of urban refugees in Johannesburg.

Working in partnership with Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, CWS is deeply committed to writing a new chapter in the story of urban refugees and asylum seekers. This includes equipping refugees and asylum seekers with basic communication skills needed to expand employment and other income-generating opportunities.

The classes are part of the CWS Urban Refugee Self-Reliance Program, which assists both refugees and South Africans to access job opportunities and succeed in the workplace, and is funded through a grant from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). English classes complement CWS employment direct services, and offer an opportunity for refugees and asylum seekers to increase their English language proficiency in terms of reading, speaking, listening and writing. The curriculum includes vocabulary and dialogue practice that is tailored for English use in the workplace, including applying English in job interviews and communicating effectively with supervisors and co-workers.

CWS has designed assessment tools to measure progress made by English class participants.  To date, we are thrilled to report that pre- and post-tests show an average score increase of 68 percent among the 47 refugees and asylum seekers who have completed the English course since September 2016.

With their improved language skills, they are confident and well-positioned to succeed in their job search and perform effectively in the workplace. With this kind of basic language support, the sky is the limit when it comes to urban refugees’ self-reliance.

Jean Guy Kwiumi, is the CWS Program Manager, South Africa; Caleb Wafula, is the Program Development Assistant, CWS Africa