A Union is born: Solidarity with English Language Students' Union of Ireland
Updated: Jan 8, 2021
A union is born: English Language Students' Union of Ireland was founded last night.
It came out of the reckless exclusionary discriminatory treatment English language students in Ireland's -100 English Language Teaching Organisations.
The treatment was uncovered by Fiachra Ó Luain an English Language Teacher who has a long history of strong left activism, and pretty good command of Spanish and Portuguese, enabling him like old Joe Ettor in Lawrence's Bread and Roses strike to organise those of us separated by the curse of Babel, language.
He also had the strong unwavering support of his fellow workers in Unite English Language Teachers,the strong material support of the long-standing community groups, not to mention at least one IWW member from Dublin.
But the students and the communities of activists around Unite ELT and others beat those other curses which are so much easier to fall under in our culture that we forget they are what stop us from organising: fear, individualism, hopelessness, and apathy.
Excellent examples of righteous anger were seen by students for themselves for their friends, family and fellow students. Plans were proposed. Common ground was recognised. Questions shared and answered and patters of successful interpretation of situations, the law, and contracts were shared. A clear analysis became apparent.
These conversations are making it easier to grow the sense of solidarity among students. This advance comes from below and supported when needed by informed disciplined worker activists aware of the issues uniting citizens and denizens, students and teachers, old communities and new.
Tonight this dedication paid off as the ELSU was born. It was reported on the campaign page established called COVID Ireland English Language Students Solidarity. Volunteer organising by data analysts, teachers, community workers, and trade union workers.
These people took action on the solidarity they felt with the students. Many had lived the same experiences themselves years earlier in other countries or even here. But it was the students themselves who supported each other emotionally and socially and drove the questions from worried one-to-one chats, to referrals towards more knowledgeable friends, trusted teachers and neighbours to physical and online networks like the community groups and unions who knew how to get these issues noticed in the press and in the Dáil.
In doing so students recognised how their trouble was shared. Shared not across the students in their school, who lived in the same building or who shared the same part-time job. Shared across everyone in Ireland living the experience of being an English Language Student in Ireland.
-They all had trouble getting refunds for unfinished courses because our government left more liberty for moneyed school owners than for scrimping and saving students...
-They all had trouble because the landlord class doesn't face threats of inspection but they live visa to visa under threat of expulsion if they are sick too often or find their school operates a scam, like forced monitored screen time in front of low-quality 'language learning apps' instead of working with experienced trained language teachers...
-They all had trouble because they were here to fill the worst apartments, work the lowest level service jobs, pay tuition to the school owners who with the full consent of the Department of Education and Skills and their Quality and Qualification Ireland body abandoned quality standards for just these students- the non-English speaking ones...
They share that experience.
So we're proud to see that solidarity. We are happy that they know that can fix it together. And alone they are destined only to lose. For the moment they've appointed Fiachra Ó Luain to take a place for them on the government's inter-agency inter-governmental COVID19 Working Group on the ELE sector... but it's their union. And that will live on. Just like our union was built back in 1905 by the people who lived the effects of injustice, these students have set up their own union and that's what gives that union power.
There is power in a union.
More power to you English Language Student Union of Ireland.
Happy Birthday and Solidarity Forever.
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This article was updated on 15 May 2020 to correctly include Chile Despertó Dublin for their fundamental contributions at the request of ELSU and to correct a mistake in the original title.