UPDATE (18 March 2020): EFA has now paused classes. We are experimenting with teaching via Zoom, Skype and Whatsapp. If any educactors want to share notes, that’d be great. We have also started calling round all our students to check in with them, ask if they need anything. We’ve been dropping groceries off to people who are self-isolating. We’re also connecting with our various allies to ask a) what mutual aid is proving most effective and b) what political action should we prioritise (eg. rent moratorium, universal basic income, end to immigration detention etc.). We want to help make sure mutual aid and government support includes migrants and refugees and also that migrants and refugees are able to play a full a role as they want in the mutual aid and political campaigning / holding government to account that will get us through. Love and solidarity to all.
In light of the developments with COVID-19/coronavirus, we have been assessing how to move forward in terms of our activities at EFA. We have been critically engaging with government advice and are in dialogue with other groups – including hosts – to share opinions and identify the best way forward. We have also been discussing this in our classes and actively seeking out students’ opinions on the matter.
Many students are concerned about disruption to their ESOL classes, which are not only educational settings to them, but also a community that they access for support and care and a space that helps them combat loneliness and mental ill health. Others, on the other hand, have echoed concerns about whether the government’s response to this situation has been adequate, with some even avoiding classes since the issue started escalating.
As a result, EFA has decided to choose appropriate action on a class-by-class basis. We are assessing whether to pause classes through dialogue, working with hosts to follow protocol, and constantly analysing the changing situation. Some of our classes are being paused due to the host venue requesting cancellation or the ESOL group deciding that it is best to do so, particularly in classes where there are students who are more vulnerable in relation to COVID-19/coronavirus.
In cases where our classes stop, we are actively looking into how we can support each other through community organising efforts that focus on mutual support. This will be of particular significance if schools do end up shutting. We are also exploring creative approaches to distance learning via phone, messaging services, apps and worksheets. Additionally, we are working with staff to encourage remote-working and minimising risk of exposure through travel on crowded public transport. We are also postponing our conference and will get in touch separately with people who have purchased tickets.
Where classes continue, we will be practising good hand hygiene as per advice, and we are advising anyone with symptoms to avoid coming to class.
We remain determined as ever to support migrants based on language learning, capacity building, and community organising.
We hope that everyone is looking after themselves and each other.
(As some ESOL students may be concerned about accessing healthcare in relation to COVID-19/coronavirus, we have reached out to allies working on the issue of health charging in the NHS and received advice that COVID-19/coronavirus has been added to the list of charging exemptions: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-entitlements-migrant-health-guide#main-messages Testing and treatment of COVID-19/coronavirus is free. NHS 111 also remains free and translation can be provided by ‘holding’ until connected to the operator – thank you Doctors of the World UK and Docs Not Cops)