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‘Urgent need’ for lessons to improve women’s English in Redbridge, says charity

PUBLISHED: 14:47 29 January 2016 | UPDATED: 14:47 29 January 2016

Bushra Tahir says it is important to empower women by helping them to learn English

Bushra Tahir says it is important to empower women by helping them to learn English

Archant

English lessons are urgently needed to “empower” women in Redbridge, according to charities in the borough.

Chairwoman of women’s charity Awaaz, Bushra Tahir, said there was an ”urgent need” for more classes for women who do not have English as a first language.

“We need to empower these women to the standard of living in the UK,” she said.

Mrs Tahir said it was a matter of “bringing back confidence” for many people, including those who had lived in Britain for a long time.

Last week Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would pledge £20million to teach Muslim women to speak English in a bid to tackle segregation and help them resist the lure of extremism.

Immigrants, who arrive in the UK on a five-year spousal visa, have to demonstrate they can speak basic English through a test, but Mr Cameron wants to toughen the legislation.

Under new regulations, tests would be carried out after two-and-a-half years, when people will have to show they have improved their language skills or face deportation – with changes applying from October.

Mr Cameron admitted this could see families being broken up but that segregation through language was “not in tune with British values and it needs to go”.

Awaaz plans to bid for funding to provide more support, and is already looking for volunteers with teaching skills.

Mrs Tahir told the Recorder the charity was also launching free IT classes next Monday on the basis of a £10 deposit for six sessions, which she believes are a necessary tool to help women learn English and stay connected.

She explained many older women who have lived in the borough for a long time and have never learnt English can feel “isolated and depressed” when their children leave home.

Rita Chadha, executive director of Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL), welcomed the government’s announcement but said it was “not only a woman’s issue but a whole community issue”.

Ramfel runs four free English classes a week with a capacity of between 12 and 15 people but all of them are full and the organisation hopes to double its service to eight classes a week.

“We have not met a single individual here who is not willing to learn or improve their English.” she said.

Ramfel has to operate a waiting list and Ms Chadha says this reflects people’s “anxiety” around their language skills.

Ramfel is also looking for volunteers to teach English at the centre in High Road, Ilford.


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