Senait Hailahariam arrived in New Zealand as a refugee from Eritrea three years ago. She has been learning English with English Language Partners for a year now, first with a home tutor and now through formal ESOL Literacy classes four days a week.
Though she still relies on help from her family to translate, her English is steadily improving, and word by word the pieces are beginning to fall into place in her adopted language.
Mastering English language is now just one of Senait’s goals. She is determined to become a caregiver when her language skills are up to scratch. This is a cultural change for Senait – women don’t traditionally work in her native country so it would be her first job outside of rearing the family’s four children. Working would mean saving the much-needed money to be able to visit her mum back home.
“In Eritrea, there is [now] gender equality because when they liberated the country even women were fighting alongside men so a lot of women died as well during the 30-year civil war, so women are not seen as being inferior to men when it comes to having access to jobs, education and so on.”
Senait is acutely aware of the opportunities her daughter, Rodas, has in New Zealand, and both her and and her husband are encouraging their daughter to study hard and dream big.
Although the family appears well settled and happy in their home, Senait says it wasn’t always that way. One of the hardest things of the move down under, she says, was spending a year sleeping at a friend’s place as the family waited to get a house.
“For one year [there was] no house. My children were crying, they wanted to go home,” she remembers.
Although Senait’s plans to visit her mother are never far from her thoughts, for the meantime she is focused squarely on graduating from the beginners level in her language classes – something that, with her determination, she will no doubt achieve very soon.