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The Homework Club prepares to help students

By Heath McCoy

As another school year is set to kick off, Amal Madibbo, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, is readying herself for double duty.

Not only is Madibbo preparing for the University of Calgary classes she teaches in race and ethnic relations and contemporary sociological theory, but she’s also gearing up to educate students ranging from kindergarten to high school.

In the past year, Madibbo and a group of her sociology students – along with those from other faculties – have taken an active role in an initiative called the Homework Club, which offers weekly tutoring to school age children within the Sudanese-Canadian community, in subjects ranging from math, sciences and language arts.

The Homework Club was established last year by the Sudanese Calgarian Youth For Change Association with the goal of helping Sudanese children better integrate into the city’s school system and overall social fabric.

Alberta is home to the second largest concentration of Sudanese-Canadians in the country, after Ontario. While some Sudanese-Canadians have integrated successfully, others face challenges.

“As newcomers to this society, the majority face numerous barriers to their integration,” says Madibbo. “There are language barriers, cultural barriers and also systemic barriers, in terms of racism and discrimination.”

A key to overcoming these hurdles for Sudanese-Canadian youth is successful completion of school, says Madibbo, but the reality is that dropout rates among this group are high.

The Sudanese Calgarian Youth For Change Association formed the Homework Club to counter the problem.  

As a member of the Sudanese-Canadian community herself, Madibbo got involved with the program almost from the start, and, given her work as a sociology professor she had many resources to bring. This included her students.

With the support of the Department of Sociology, Madibbo encouraged her students to offer their tutorial services to the Homework Club, a factor that stepped up the program’s quality of learning considerably.

Having university students for tutors has been a great motivator for children taking part in the Homework Club says Buthina Ahmed of Calgary’s Sudanese community, who started the initiative.

“When the children learn from university students it inspires them,” says Ahmed. “They see that if they can continue school they’ll achieve their dreams one day too.”

Ahmed is excited to continue the Homework Club in the coming school year because she’s seen its effectiveness at work. She’s watched children who were constantly getting in trouble and failing in school turn their acts around after receiving help from the Homework Club.

Working with the Homework Club has been a great fit for the Department of Sociology, adds Madibbo.

“This university is very interested in partnerships with the community,” she notes. “In our department, the issues of immigrant communities and improving the chances of success for marginalized groups are main goals of our program.

“We’re interested in social problems and we want to help.”