ESL students at Assiniboine Community College will get to enjoy a few more weeks of classes as normal, thanks to an amendment in federal funding.
After a little more than a month of downsized classes, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provided additional funding of $107,000, allowing ACC to continue its previous schedule temporarily until the end of June.
IRCC’s change of heart follows funding cuts to ACC’s ESL program that were effective March 31. Those cuts saw ESL programming go from $730,000 in federal funding in 2016-17 to $190,000 in 2017-18.
Students were looking at an approximate 85 per cent reduction in class offerings, including the cancellation of Friday and Saturday classes, as well as evenings.
"One of the things that IRCC had committed to was working with us to continue to understand what the demand was," ACC president Mark Frison said. "They have stayed in close contact throughout all of this. Our language training folks and their officials have always been in close contact to make sure they’re understanding, and their commitment to do that has been helpful."
The extra funding allows the college to resume four classes a week, including mornings, afternoons, evenings and Saturdays. Classes had been reduced to only twice a week. ACC can now accommodate 150 to 180 students with classes four days a week versus only 80 students twice a week.
"I’m glad to see the extension of the days and the hours," Frison said.
Resuming classes also means renewing contracts.
In addition to the only full-time regular instructor for ESL programming, six contract instructors were also brought back to teach in the ESL programs.
ESL student Nataliya Kulyaba said she is overjoyed that the additional classes were reinstated.
"I’m really, really, really happy I can’t even explain — It’s magic," Kulyaba said, laughing. "Everyone is very happy and thankful for our government to give some money back. We really appreciate it."
The cuts not only affected the number of students able to attend class, but also their education, Kulyaba said.
"With two classes (per week), it was very fast and a lot of information, it was a little bit crazy. For example, it was like if you wanted to eat some food but you can’t eat it every day, only a few times a week — that’s what it felt like," Kulyaba said. "But now it’s very good. It’s really helpful for us because we keep going and we get practice."
Kulyaba said she isn’t sure what’s going to happen when classes resume in September, but she hopes IRCC will consider extra funding once again.
As it stands right now, classes will be reduced again in September, Frison said, adding that he is encouraged by the working relationship ACC and IRCC have had so far.
"I do hope that as we continue into the fall, if there is that demand that (IRCC) will be equally as responsive," Frison said.
English classes provided to hundreds of foreign workers through United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 also saw significant federal funding cuts, with the majority of their funding ceasing as of June 1.
UFCW representatives did not respond by press time regarding their situation.
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