River Nile Learning Centre receives 56k grant to educate young refugee mothers

The River Nile Learning Centre has been awarded $56,000 over two years as part of the City of Melbourne’s social partnerships program.

The social partnership program prioritises projects that “enable and empower diverse communities, that build capacity and contribute to a more sustainable, socially just and resilient city.”

Elizabeth Davie, executive officer of the Learning Centre, said the grant would allow them to partner with North Melbourne Language and Learning (NMLL) which gave their classes further scope to assist students.

“It’s fantastic to be able to have our partnership supported because it’s great to be able to work with NMLL because we’re not a training organisation but through NMLL we can offer accredited courses which open up more doors for ongoing education,” Ms Davie said.

The Learning Centre focuses on the needs of young mothers aged between 25 and 35 offering certificates in English as an additional language, English numeracy, literacy, language skills and offer a digital literacy component.

“Most of our students are young mothers and so it’s important to be able to help remove the barriers for them to get further education, and our goal is to help students move on to further education or work. So that’s where we are able to help the most,” Ms Davie said.

“We run classes three days a week for refugee and asylum seeker women and we’re working in partnership with North Melbourne Language and Learning to offer those classes which is what the social partnerships grant is supporting, that partnership.”

The learning centre is built not only to offer the classes but to help reduce barriers to participation in classes through services and support.

“What the River Nile offers, which is a bit different to a lot of places, is we have free child care available,” Ms Davie said.

“Most of our students are young mothers, and so we have that free child care available while they are in class. We also provide Mykis, we have a dedicated social worker whose able to provide welfare support, and we have a food bank of staple items as well.”

Support for these programs has been more important than ever as the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to plague the community.

“In this time particularly, these communities are particularly vulnerable and so it’s important that we are able to continue our work,” Ms Davie said.

“COVID has had a big economic impact and it’s hard to find funding, there’s so many worthy projects that are all competing for the same funding so we’re very lucky and grateful that we received it.”

The River Nile Learning Centre is completely volunteer-led and funded through grants, donations and fundraising •

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