Around 600 students and lecturers lobbied MPs in parliament on Wednesday of last week. They were protesting against funding cuts to English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) provision.
The Tories slashed adult education funding by 24 percent earlier this year. On top of this they cut funding for “Esol plus mandation” in July.
This hit around 16,000 Job Seekers’ Allowance claimants who have been told to improve their English to find jobs.
Rafique Uddi, a student at Tower Hamlets College in east London, joined the protest. “If we can’t improve our English it’s very difficult to find a job,” he said. Amanda, originally from Columbia, agreed. “Living in London is very expensive,” she said. “I need Esol to find a job.”
One Esol lecturer from Greenwich Community College in south east London pointed to the Tories’ hypocrisy.
She said, “They’re all under pressure from the job centre to get jobs—unless they improve their English they can’t do it.
“We lost about 40 percent of our students because they are now not eligible for free Esol and they can’t afford to pay.”
Another lecturer from south London’s Lewisham and Southwark College said, “There’s no training for staff and no time to support people. If someone is off sick there’s no one to cover for them. There has to be a knock-on effect on students.”
Other protesters stressed the wider impact that being cut off from learning English can have. Samah said her Esol class was “the most important” thing to her. “It encourages us to look for courses in other subjects,” she said.
Homemade placards read, “No Esol—no voice” and “Help us learn”.
Samah said lack of English can leave people isolated—and that immigration policies make it worse. “It’s hard in Britain if you don’t have family,” she said. “I had to have a caesarean in hospital and I would look to my family for help. But they are not allowed to come here.”