Everybody wants immigrants in the UK to learn English, but budget cuts are about to make it much more difficult for them to do so. According to the Independent, almost 80,000 people in the UK will soon lose access to free English classes. To help trim the budget, free English classes are to be reserved for active job seekers. Everyone else will have to pitch in at least half the cost of the classes, which can cost up to £1,000 per year, money that in many cases simply isn’t there.
The requirement that immigrants be on “active benefits” to access free classes means that women will bear the brunt of the cuts. Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told the Independent:
“Women are the most likely not to be on active benefits and are therefore the most likely to be affected by this policy. The Government says everybody has the right to integrate, but it is impossible to integrate if one can’t speak English. To ignore the needs of the most vulnerable people in society makes a mockery of the Big Society rhetoric.”
Having a population of women who are isolated and completely dependent on their husbands and children to interact with outside world creates its own problems, as well. Plus, many of these women would prefer to work outside the home, but of course they need to learn English to do so. Sure, some people can teach themselves a new language on their own, from books and TV shows, but many others need the structure and guidance found in a classroom setting.
For example, Zainab Duale, who ran away from Somalia with her husband 9 years ago, has seen tremendous benefits from the classes and wants to keep taking them, but can’t afford to continue doing so. She explained her situation to the Independent:
“I don’t really understand what I am going to do, because it is all so confusing. ESOL has helped me with lots of things. From getting the Tube on my own to understanding people on the street when they ask me a question. I study two days a week and it has made me confident and more comfortable. I can’t afford to pay hundreds of pounds for my course; it is too difficult for me – £300 is a lot of money if you don’t work. If I lose my classes, I will never be able to get a job.”
Hopefully, some sort of solution will be found to allow people like Zainab to continue learning English.