Campaigners across the country highlighted threats to Esol (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision on Wednesday of last week.
Recent changes in government funding mean that many people will no longer be entitled to free classes.
Around 60 staff and students joined a protest organised by Lambeth College, in south London. Students from the Ivory Coast, Somalia and Bolivia wrote messages on placards.
Teresa Ortiz has been an Esol lecturer at Lambeth College for seven years. She told Socialist Worker, “The government want to push ‘Esol for work’ courses that would be run in job centres.
“But people don’t learn English by being given a few phrases – that’s not how people acquire language. Esol for work will be a waste of money in the long term. People need to learn English to use in their everyday lives – it shouldn’t just be about finding a job. Our new slogan is, ‘Language is a human right’.
“The campaign to defend Esol has pulled in people from lots of different groups, like the Refugee Council and the Children’s Society, and has shocked the government. We’ve organised this day of action to build up for a national demonstration later this year.
“The job has become less enjoyable because it feels less and less like we’re serving the community, and more like we’re following a government agenda.”
Susan McDowell, the branch secretary of Lambeth UCU, told Socialist Worker, “The situation with Esol provision is becoming very cut-throat and unsympathetic to the students who need it.”
Protests took place in many other areas across the country, including Birmingham, Bradford, Huddersfield, Newcastle, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.