Story: Bob Bennett | Photo: Andrew Edmondson
Nearly 200 people attended a meeting at SADACCA on 13th March 2007, united against the government proposal to cut funding to English language courses (ESOL). The cuts will kill off at least 25% of courses run in Burngreave, with a devastating effect on Adult Learning Providers catering for refugees and asylum seekers.
Speakers attacked the cuts as disgusting and degrading, with unanimous support for a local campaign to support National opposition to the cuts, coordinated by the University and Colleges Union.
Burngreave Labour councillor Ibrar Hussain said:
“I think the withdrawal of ESOL will have a devastating impact on all of us.”
It was agreed that the Learning and Skills Council cuts would take away the basic tool of citizenship from immigrants – the ability to speak English, contradicting the Government’s message that people coming into the UK should play a full role in British society.
Maxine Bowler, a Respect Party candidate for Burngreave, said:
“The decision flies in the face of social cohesion.”
African asylum seeker, Wattara Houadjotany warned that the cuts would damage refugees’ and immigrants’ futures and that the community would be divided without a common language.
“When people look at me they see a black man – but when they talk to me they forget that I am different because we are speaking the same language.”
Kathryn Austin of Sheffield College said the cuts were “heart rending”.
If the decision is not reversed, many people could be paying up to £500 to learn English.
“Many vulnerable and hard to reach groups in the community would be hit hard,”
The cuts would also damage courses designed to provide a “learning ladder” for people who had completed ESOL courses.
Tony Tingle, of Sheffield Council’s Adult Education Service, spoke in a personal capacity, saying that ethnic minority communities would be the hardest hit:
“The Government has decided we should assess fees for ESOL courses using Working Tax Credit. Only 3% of migrant workers currently claim income tax credit. It could be because the application form for working tax credit is a very long document – in English.”
Representatives of the Sheffield Save ESOL group are lobbying MPs, councillors and local trade union branches to support the campaign. A Save ESOL protest march through Sheffield City Centre will take place on Saturday 21st April.
For more details contact Ahmed Gurnah on 279 4961 or Tony Tingle on 255 5791 after 6pm.