ACT News

'He would come home crying everyday': Culture shock and isolation in early education

Fear of the unknown causes many children to shed a tear on their first day of school.

But after six-year-old Tega Levy migrated from Nigeria to Canberra, he cried every day.

"He would get home from school and cry because he thought no one liked him," his mother, Nefe said.

"He even said he wanted to go back to Africa."

The struggle he faced through culture shock, isolation and lack of support prompted Mrs Levy to advocate for "every child's right" to early childhood education.

This issue, along with teaching multiculturalism to young children and the funding shortage to day care centres, will be debated in a public seminar at Novotel on Saturday.

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Mrs Levy arrived in Australia in 2009 with her then six-year-old son Tega and their baby boy, Amaury.

"This was really challenging for him [Tega] and also for me because I didn't understand what was happening and why my child wasn't fitting in to the education system," she said.

"I think he struggled because all the other kids had gone to daycare together or grown up with children from the same culture and already had their peers."

The Chifley mother strongly believes that if Tega had the opportunity to be exposed to the English language and Australian social culture, he would have had a much smoother transition to formal schooling.

Growing passionate about helping children, she began her own family daycare service, 'Nefe Family Day Care' in Pearce which she still runs today. Tega, now 14, is enjoying school at Boys Grammar and is doing well.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities' councils of Australia found that the quality of life of refugee children is directly affected by their access to appropriate early childhood education and care services.

Government representatives, high commissioners and human rights advocates will join Mrs Levy on Saturday to discuss the lack of accessibility of daycare to families who are not yet permanent residents.

"This isn't about the parents, it is about the rights of the children," Mrs Levy said.

The forum will also explore introducing more Indigenous culture into early childcares and the struggles that the small ones face.

"We small businesses act at the same professional standards but the bigger daycares get all the funding," she said.

"It has to be equal."

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