Prince Shizirungu is a shining example of the type of newly arrived students to Australia that the Warrawong Intensive English Centre (WIEC) helps.
The 15-year-old grew up in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) but Prince fled his war-torn country for Uganda when he was only nine-years-old.
Two years later he fled war again and moved to Rwanda. But two years later he was on the move again, this time to Kenya, where he finally met up with the rest of his family.
Three months ago Prince and his parents and four siblings moved to Wollongong.
“This has been the best move,” Prince said.
“War is all I remember from my childhood. It wasn’t a stable environment as we kept on moving from place to place.
“I’m really happy now that we are here in Wollongong.”
Prince joined many others at the 39th annual WIEC Open Day and Graduation Ceremony held on Wednesday to coincide with Education Week.
Located in Warrawong High School, WIEC is the only Intensive English Centre outside the Sydney Metropolitan area.
Head teacher Alison Seymour said since forming in 1979 WIEC has assisted more than 2500 students to learn English in readiness for life as a high school student.
Their current students hail from 14 different countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tonga, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Burundi, DRC, Russia, Ukraine and Eritrea.
“This is the first stage of the Australian journey for these students,” Ms Seymour said.
“Many of them have come from wart-torn countries so it is a major adjustment for them to come to an Australian high school.
“We are like a halfway home for them in that we teach them English but we also give them the skills to be able to be successful in Australian high schools.
“And we have had a lot of success stories over the years including an opera singer and last year one of our students was Dux of Warrawong High School.”