EFA’s Covid-19 Response
EFA’s staff team met online via Zoom on Friday 13th to discuss a new strategy in response to Covid19. This followed a week of 1-1 and small group discussions. All staff participated.
We agreed that due to Covid 19 our ‘problem’ has intensified.
Migrants are disproportionately the target of policies, systems and cultures that produce poverty and inequality.
Migrants in the UK are more likely to have precarious work, jobs like cleaning and in catering and retail where they cannot work from home and less likely to have savings to fall back on. They may face barriers to accessing benefits or have no recourse to public funds. It will also be more difficult for migrants with low levels of English to follow UK advice and information.
ESOL and community capacity building remain important ways to address this problem. The skills and knowledge we support our participants to gain, the mutual support we facilitate and the campaigns we participate in are more urgent than ever. Our tactics/campaigns need to change slightly however:
Tactics & Campaigns:
1. Provide participatory, action-orientated ESOL classes
This can obviously no longer happen face-face and we don’t know for how long, so we have created a new online timetable. We are running at least 16 formal Zoom classes a week (at least two a day Monday – Saturday). We are inviting students to attend where they feel most comfortable and at times convenient to them – they are not restricted by where they used to attend pre-crisis. In addition, partly because we can’t reach everyone through Zoom, we are having discussions on Whatsapp, setting homework and calling people to help maintain the learning and relationship.
2. Campaign on the issues that emerge in the classes, alongside our students*
The issues that emerge in class are similar (housing, work, benefits, educating children etc.) but even more urgent than previously. We are joining campaigns to protect renters, support undocumented migrants, close detention centres, support women at risk of domestic violence, improve support for self-employed people, participate in mutual aid groups and others.
3. Develop and share these methods (community organising and ESOL) through research, training and external communications
External teacher training is likely to be difficult for the foreseeable future. Clearly face-to-face training is not possible and with people’s work up in the air and minds on more urgent business, it remains to be seen whether teachers wish to engage online. Our research on counter-narratives (about migration) can and will continue however and we will continue the research we need to do to deliver training and write a handbook as part of the Migreat! Project. ESOL teachers across the country are adapting to online learning and we can share our knowledge of this with others and facilitate learning from each other. We are exploring the possibility of holding online workshops to replace our annual conference.
4. Campaign for ESOL
We will put on hold ESOL campaigning for the time being as government, the GLA and councils are not really in a position to engage with us. Our campaigning priorities are towards action that will support our beneficiaries get through the crisis and help to create a new normal on the other side.
We are still hoping to hold #LoveESOL in September but obviously we’ll need to monitor this.
Staff reorganised around a new teaching timetable. People are also working in teams to address our new priorities. Teachers are committing time to calling around students to check-in and ask what we can do to support. Adela and Verushka are creating resources for our students with important advice, information and campaigns. Adela is creating an online course for the Introduction to Community Organising training. Kasia and Anne are lending time to our fundraising efforts. Amira is devoting time to researching and communicating mutual support and relevant campaigns. We’ve created contingency plans in case of illness and reduced/flexible working for all who need it. We understand that this is a difficult time for staff and that many will have increased anxiety as well as pressures at home during the lockdown, including managing childcare and other caring responsibilities.
We are calculating the financial changes that will result from Covid-19. We have communicated with funders and all accept there will be changes to our projects. We have communicated to creche workers and contract teachers that their contracts, (termly) will be paid in full for the remainder of the term (three weeks) and then we’ll review before next term. We are increasing the time we spend on fundraising to be in the best position possible in September.
We will use external comms to support our community with online learning, ideas for teachers, important information, mutual support and relevant campaigns. Amira will work closely with colleagues to make sure our communications connect with the work we’re doing across the organisation and, as ever, is led by our participants’ experiences and concerns.
We are devoting time to understanding online learning and especially online participatory learning. We have invested in Zoom accounts for teachers and have done training to help each other use it. We are leading discussions among a wider community of ESOL teachers to impact beyond EFA and learn from others. We will continue to prepare our external training offer so we are ready to launch when everything is ‘back to normal’.
Community organising is as fundamental to our work as ever. Connecting with our students in a meaningful way, deep listening, reaching out to allies, participating in campaigns, joining mutual support efforts, understanding and building power are all vital to our Covid-19 response. We will continue to teach CO through our online ESOL classes and special online CO training.