Ukrainian refugees swell demand for free English courses

Posted On 23 Jun 2022 at 7:18 pm

A big rise has been reported in the number of people signing up for free English language courses in Brighton and Hove since Russia invaded Ukraine.

More than 100 Ukrainians have registered for the government-funded courses in the past five weeks alone – with just one local course provider.

Functional Skills UK, of Eastern Road, Brighton, has also hired two Ukrainian tutors to help break down language barriers, teaching 12 to 20 people three times a week.

Dariia Semenenko, a tutor, from Ukraine, said: “I feel protected and calm working with a team of professionals.”

Ms Semenenko previously visited Brighton to learn English and now teaches at Functional Skills UK.

She said: “Unluckily, the reason for my visiting Brighton this time is not so positive. But, still, I am happy that my son and I are alive and safe – and I can help Ukrainians here.”

The English courses are free for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, with funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Luke Hardy, from Functional Skills UK, said: “Even before the Ukraine conflict, there was a need in the city for the funded English courses which we offer.”

The tutors teach students from Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Iran, Spain and Ukraine in Sussex.

The “ESOL preparation for work” course teaches conversational English, helping with phrases for job centres, buses and local facts about Brighton.

The courses start from a more basic pre-entry level, with a level 2 qualification equivalent to a GCSE grade C or 4.

Learners do not have to pay for the courses and the funding helps remove other barriers such as the cost of a bus pass to travel to the sessions.

Mary Farah, from Syria, said: “I learned a lot from the course and it was very nice to learn sentence structure. I feel braver having conversations with people and picking up phone calls.”

People and groups have been celebrating Refugee Week in Brighton and Hove this week, with events taking place locally from Monday 20 June to Sunday 26 June on the theme of “healing”.

Richard Williams, who chairs Sanctuary on Sea, a support group in Brighton and Hove, said: “As our government does its utmost to deter asylum seekers by deporting them to Rwanda, thousands of miles away, we will show through the arts and culture that people who seek sanctuary in Brighton and Hove are valued, respected and welcomed.”

Luqman Temitayo Onikosi, a Refugee Week co-ordinator, said that the experience of trying to regularise their status as a migrant for nine years was “traumatising”.

He said: “It is heartening and uplifting to have a community of people with similar immigration experiences given a space in the heart of Brighton and Hove city to support each other and to heal.”

To find out more about Sanctuary on Sea, click here. For more about Functional Skills UK, click here.

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