If he does enter Number 10, I will be calling on Boris Johnson to deliver funding for English lessons (Picture: David Mirzoeff/ PA)I was surprised to hear Boris Johnson’s recent comments about how he would make all immigrants learn to speak English.
Not because I don’t think people in the UK should be able to speak English, but because he didn’t seem to understand or be aware how hard it now is for refugees like me to be able to learn when we come to Britain.
Over the last decade funding for English language classes has been cut by almost 60 per cent – from £212.3m in 2008 to £105m in 2018.
New research by the charity Refugee Action reveals that services are so overstretched, refugees aren’t receiving enough hours of teaching, there are long waits to access classes and provision is so inadequate people don’t feel confident that their English is good enough to get a job.
When I arrived in Birmingham from Syria I felt lost and isolated because I couldn’t communicate with anyone. Imagine coming to a country where you don’t understand anything. You can’t work, open a business or even get a bus.
I was determined that I wanted to get back to my computing studies. The civil war tore my dreams apart, but safely in the UK I could now turn them into reality by going to university. I just needed to pass an advanced English exam first.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I got access to English lessons soon after arriving. I used YouTube tutorials and library books to help me as well.
I felt very nervous to speak to anyone. Even saying ‘hi’ for the first time in English to people was very difficult. But I studied hard and it’s paid off.
I learnt this week that I’ve achieved a first in my Computer Science degree. My family are delighted and so am I, but without the support I received to learn the language of my new home, it just wouldn’t have been possible for me to have achieved this.
Over the last decade funding for English language classes has been cut by almost 60 per cent (Picture: Anya Semenoff/The Denver Post via Getty Images)So many refugees have skills and expertise to offer but without being able to speak English they are being held back from integrating into their new communities.
They are being denied the opportunity to fulfil their potential and become an active part of our society.
Last week I attended a Westminster Hall debate led by Preet Kaur Gill MP. I heard from MPs from across the political divide call on the government to do more and invest the money so desperately needed.
There are plenty of warm words from government about how learning English is the key to integration, but it must be matched by investment.
I’ve started my own business which I hope will be as big as Microsoft one day. I am just so thankful to this country for giving me and my family sanctuary. I will achieve my dreams and goals, and I just want others to have the same opportunity to learn English so they can achieve theirs.
Boris Johnson could be our prime minister in three weeks’ time. If so, it will be in his power to make this a priority and significantly increase funding for English classes.
It will allow refugees and others to have the chance to learn so they can rebuild their lives and contribute to their new communities.
If he does enter Number 10, I know I and others will be calling on him to deliver on this.
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