Socialist Worker

Protesters slam Cameron's racism and language classes cuts

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2488

Esol teacher Sonia and two of her students join the protest

Esol teacher Sonia and two of her students join the protest (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Up to 100 students, teachers and anti-racists joined a protest outside Downing Street in London tonight,Wednesday. They demanded decent funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) classes - and an end to the Tories' racist targeting of Muslims.

Some £160 million has been cut from Esol classes since 2008. Yet David Cameron has attacked people, particularly Muslim women, who he says don't have a good enough grasp of English.

Sonia Carroll, an Esol teacher at City and Islington College in north London, joined the protest with two of her students. "David Cameron is a hypocrite," Sonia told Socialist Worker.

"Many students left my college crying because they could not enrol there. Colleges say that students can't continue learning Esol if they don't meet targets on progress.

"Yet the majority are suffering trauma and have come from war zones."

Sonia said that cuts mean teachers can't properly support students. "We used to have twice as many staff as we do now," she said. "Staff that remain have had their hours cut. We used to have morning, afternoon and twilight Esol classes.

"All the twilight classes have gone. And all classes on Saturdays have gone."

UCU union rep Alyson James

UCU union rep Alyson James (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Alyson James is a UCU union rep and Esol teacher at Westminster Kingsway college. She told Socialist Worker, "We've got waiting lists for Esol classes at our college. People want to learn English even though they are often so tired and working two or three jobs as well.

"David Cameron has singled out Muslim women for not learning English. But I've got Muslim women in my class. Every woman wants to learn English."

Protesters brought banners from UCU branches and Stand Up to Racism groups, as well as homemade placards and banners. Many were furious at the government's Prevent strategy, which the Tories claim prevents "extremism".

As David Hardman, secretary of the UCU at London Metropolitan University, put it, "Prevent is about targeting Muslims"

Speakers at the rally included UCU president Liz Lawrence, Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey and Shakira Martin from the NUS students' union.

McCluskey said protesters would not allow the Tories "to divide working people" with racism.

Weyman Bennett from Stand Up to Racism described the "inhumane situation" in the Calais "jungle" camp in France. "The majority were multilingual and could speak English," he said.

Cameron dismissed the refugees in Calais as a "bunch of migrants" earlier today. Weyman said it was a "bunch of migrants" who came to Britain to build services such as the NHS.

Anti-racist campaigner Maz Saleem took on Cameron's claim that Muslim women are "traditionally submissive". "You don't know us," she said. "You haven't got a clue."

She added, "Cameron needs language lessons - his first language is rubbish."

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