As of September 2017, the province reports 15, 883 students receive English as an Additional Language (EAL) funding.
Between 2007 and 2017 more than 45,000 EAL students entered Manitoba schools.
To give an example of the rising numbers, in 2002 there were about 2,600 new EAL students in Manitoba. This past September there were almost 5,000.
The Winnipeg School Division has the most EAL students. Pembina Trails follows with 983. Louis Riel has 493 EAL students. Another five divisions in Manitoba each have between 220 and 350.
At St. James Collegiate one-third of students study EAL. Many are newcomers coming from some of the most violent, dire situations.
“There’s a sense of overwhelm, that’s for sure and sadness,” said Janet Frolek, a guidance counsellor at the high school.
Frolek said many students have needs beyond academics including basic school supplies and emotional support. She said teachers are running different programs tailored to meet these specialized needs in the same classroom and educators need more time devoted to these kids.
“When you have a smaller classroom environment, you’re able to meet those needs … and then more time to acquire the materials and develop more appropriate programs,” said Frolek.
She said educators care a lot about their students and worry if some students don’t have their needs met they could end up having brushes with the law or face economic hardship.
Some classes don’t always give students the right credits for them to apply to post-secondary institutions, she added.
Education Minister Ian Wishart said he’s aware some teachers feel overwhelmed.
He said the Department of Education is helping teachers by providing professional learning opportunities on how to meet academic and social-emotional needs of refugee students including trauma, holding roundtables with community members to exchange information and ideas, offering online resources, and documents dealing with topics such as life after war, healing and building hope.
“We’re doing our best to provide them with the additional supports they need and certainly I appreciate the extra effort, I know it’s challenging,” said Wishart.