Samba Halkose, Student Liaison

Here’s an article by the Nashua Telegraph’s Michael Brindley that profiles Samba Halkose, a woman I met a few weeks ago in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Although the article, which is from late 2009, uses Halkose’s story to drive home a message about federal funding, one quote from the school’s Principal, Janet Valeri: “She’s not somebody we can do easily without.”

Although Halkose has since moved on, she worked at the Ledge School for four years helping the ten refugee students at the school adapt to their new environment. Halkose, who has three children of her own, says the hardest part for the kids was language and following direction. They had never been in a classroom, she told me, so they had to be taught to obey the structure of a school day.

I found Brindley’s article interesting in light of my current reporting on the struggles of African immigrants in light of the major difference in parenting styles between the two cultures. Halkose’s language skills (she speaks English, French, Swahili and Kirundi) allowed her to ask as a liaison between the students and their parents, who often do not yet speak fluent English.

Without the help of a liaison like Halkose, the parents are forced to rely on their children for all communication about their school. Eva Castillo, an advocate who works with New Hampshire immigrants, argues that this tendency is very dangerous for the parent. “The children rip the papers or the communications that the teachers send over, or they just read the notes in their own way or they tell them whatever news they want to tell them,” Castillo says. “So the parents end up losing power over the children.”

I will be reporting more on the dynamics between children and their parents later this week. Stay tuned!

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