Story: Sara Burkinshaw | Photo: Rohan Francis
Local learners gathered at a public meeting on 1st July 2011 to discuss the Government’s proposed cuts to ESOL classes.
The Government plans to allow only people on JSA or ESA to have free ESOL. The cuts will mainly affect women, who are far less likely to receive these benefits. People on income support will have to pay up to 50% of the fees. For many, this is impossible.
Abtisam Mohamed of the Yemeni Community Association said,
“ESOL is the key to integrating into this society as, without it, mothers cannot help their children with their homework, talk to their children’s teachers, make GP’s appointments or take their children to the hospital. The lack of English has a big impact on the development of the child. These children are our future doctors, nurses and professionals”.
Mona, an ESOL tutor, pointed out that many people were professionals in their own countries but have to take on jobs that are not affected by the language barrier. She described the negative effect on UK society, which is in desperate need of doctors and other professionals.
Green Councillor Jillian Creasy – who worked as a GP at Page Hall – told the audience,
“If you give a woman a fish, she can make a meal – but if you teach her how to fish, she can support herself forever”.
She said, in the same way, it is better to teach English rather than provide an interpreter every time.
MP David Blunkett was to be the main speaker and to hear the stories of individual learners. Unfortunately, he arrived late and left early. He offered his support and expressed his dedication to protecting access to ESOL.
Here are some of the views of ESOL learners at the meeting:
“My name is Muhammad Soloman. I am an ESOL student. I strongly believe that English should be available to all. There are a lot of people who, before they came to this class, could not speak English and could not spell their own names. Now they can communicate to doctors, nurses and teachers”.
“It is very important. I have five children. I want to speak with the teacher to find out what they are doing – I want to help my children. Before I come to school, I had never understood English. I would not be able to help my children with their homework or speak to their friends.”
“I am Sadia. I am a student in this college and I would like to just ask a question, if we have to pay big fees next year then what are they going to do for those that cannot afford this amount of money but still want to study?”
“I’m Anshan. I am a student here. Some people cannot afford a lot of money. I am not happy with the fees. It’s important for yourself, your development in the future, when your child going to school, going shopping, everywhere.”
“When I first came to the UK, I had no English, not even the alphabet. When I started the ESOL classes, I did my theory and then driving test. It also helped me apply for citizenship. And it is still helping me now I have two kids. Once I couldn’t understand the teachers or take them to the doctor’s or hospital without my husband or an interpreter. My daughter had an emergency and I was able to take them to the hospital and write what they needed, so it does help things a lot.”