AN EMOTIONAL appeal has been made by a group of Huddersfield women: “Don’t cut our language classes”
The women currently attend English lessons run by Kirklees College in Birkby.
But the course is facing cuts in Government funding as part of budget pruning.
Now the students have made an appeal to Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, who has promised to raise the issue with MPs next week.
Mr Sheerman heard from women of diverse backgrounds about how learning English was vital to making them feel part of the community.
The English for Speakers of Other Languages scheme (ESOL) currently offers 10 hours a week of free classes. at Birkby Fartown Community Centre.
But with Government cutbacks due in September, the course could cost non-English speakers up to £600 a year.
Mr Sheerman heard stories of women originally from Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran.
Fozia Shah, from Pakistan, made a tearful plea for help from Mr Sheerman.
She said: “I would like to stay here at these classes but I cannot afford £600.
“I am worried though that if I do not stay, my English will go and I have tried so hard.”
Surraya Begum, of Salendine Nook, came to England from Pakistan 28 years ago.
She said: “When I came here to this country, I could not read or write.
“I started the English class last year so that if I need to go to the doctors, I can tell them what the problem is.
“These classes are helping me to do that.
“Please help us keep our classes.”
The courses cover speaking and listening, reading and writing.
There has been Government funding for ESOL and many learners get free lessons. But under proposed cuts, many will face having to pay hundreds of pounds for the lessons.
Classes are divided according to level from beginners to level 2 and are held at various centres throughout the area, including Birkby and Dewsbury. It is a one-year part-time course.
Mr Sheerman said he was moved by the appeals and pledged to help the group continue learning English for free.
He told the women that he felt very strongly about the issue and even suggested that they “go big on it”.
He said: “Why don’t we launch a campaign, as learning English is essential for people to gain their full citizenship?
“We don’t have to take this lying down, we can do something about it.
“Not only do we want to stop the cuts to ESOL, but let’s make our access to the English language even better”.
Mr Sheerman outlined his plans for dealing with this issue and said that he would start by requesting a debate in the House of Commons the week commencing, June 6.
Chris Hooper, the College’s ESOL programme manager, said: “We are worried that if the proposed cuts are made, women with young children may be hit the hardest.
“Many of them came here seeking asylum and some are on income support, so do not have the money.
“If they don’t learn English they cannot help their children with their homework.
“It is really important that children see their parents learning so that they can be encouraged to learn themselves.
“We want women to aspire and through ESOL we find that they do.”