It has been a bit different at Club Class since the first lockdown in 2020 but while Zoom has its disadvantages, it also has its advantages. Prior to Covid, Club Class was a London based facility and even those in London had to find the time and the effort to attend in person. For the first time since its inception in 2010, young people outside of London have had the opportunity to attend sessions.

Club Class Youth Leader Egerton Gbonda said that in Manchester an entire hostel of seven young people were able to log on to the Zoom sessions, so he is now thinking about how to continue with this facility when lockdown is lifted so that young people around the country can attend virtual Club Class sessions.

That said, obviously the best option is to attend in person. “It is difficult to control the class on a Zoom,” says Egerton, who goes on to explain that there are so many distractions, texting friends, social media, watching tv, and of course we have just had the football. There can be technical issues such a lack of wi-fi or a weak signal, and some of those living with foster carers do not have the right equipment to join the classes.  Moreover, some young people do not want to be seen on camera.

While topics discussed were similar to those at in-person classes, one recurring issue was how to keep young people engaged when they are confined to the home or hostel.

Club Class is voluntary and usually attracts around 16 to 20 young people per class. Egerton would like more attendees and to see them more regularly. The younger youths who have just arrived come more often because they are keen to integrate and learn everything about living in the UK. The sessions cover practical issues such as how to use an Oyster Card, food, traditions, various festivals such as Halloween, carol singing, healthy relationships, food, mental health – everything geared to what life is like in the UK.  The older youths who have been here for a while tend to prefer to hang out with their friends.

Western culture motives and values are quite alien to many of these young people and Egerton does not shy away from tackling sensitive issues such as ‘what if your sister wanted to marry a Christian?’. “We explain the law of the land here. We talk about equalities of women and that they are not just to be seen and not heard. We need to show them that women are valuable members of society.   And we show them that it is ok for them to go into the kitchen and cook.”

Egerton would like The Separated Child Foundation to truly partner with the foster carers so everyone is on the same page. “If we are running a zoom session it would be helpful if the foster carers make sure that the child in their care attends.

“I don’t have the answer but the key for me is how can charities work with foster carers to make them more passionate, and more involved in making young people well integrated into society.  They are at school from 9 till 3 so at 4 o’clock they should be in Club Class.”

Roma Felstein

August 2021