GAGGED students attended free outdoor lessons on Huddersfield Piazza to protest about government funding cuts.
The cutbacks will hit ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses.
Students and lecturers of Huddersfield Technical College fear changes, which end entitlement to free English classes for some students, may deny non-English speakers the chance to communicate and participates in society.
The event took place yesterday as part of national Save ESOL campaign organised by the University and College Union (UCU).
Students were invited to email concerns to their councillors and a petition was submitted to Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman.
Sabira Sharif, ESOL and UCU spokesperson, said: “We have organised this event because there is local concern that changes in Government funding for adult education could gag many people who need to develop their English language skills, as many will not be able to afford a contribution to fees.
“The new policy contradicts the government’s own aim of helping people into work and encouraging community cohesion. It is very shortsighted and may leave many people isolated, especially women.”
Thea Ferguson, ESOL lecturer at Huddersfield Technical College, said: “It’s targeting those in society who are least able to do anything about it. It’s harder to protest if you can’t speak the language.
“I’ve had plumbers and engineers in my class but English is their barrier not their skills. Such people could fill the skill gap.”
Student Khalil Almtelab, 39, from Milnsbridge came to Huddersfield from Iran three years ago.
He says: “It’s very bad the Government has cut funds because its so important to learn English.
“We have a lots of problems when we go to shops, courts or hospitals. We can’t do anything without learning English.”
Atiya Ahmed, 63, from Paddock, arrived in England from Pakistan 10 years ago. Speaking only Urdu she has found life difficult especially since her husband died.
She said: “I don’t have a reader or translator, so it’s difficult.
“I can get free lessons, but they’re means tested, and I can’t even understand the forms you have to fill out.”