Outrage at deportation threat to French teacher

Jennai Cox

The plight of a teacher who was encouraged to train to work in Britain but is now penniless and facing deportation has been described as outrageous by the Association for Language Learning (ALL).

Lack of advice about working regulations means that Moustapha Oedraogo, a highly qualified language teacher from a former French colony in west Africa, will have to leave by the end of the month at a time when the modern language teacher shortage is heading towards a crisis, the ALL said.

"I find this very concerning," said Christine Wilding, secretary general of the ALL, which held a meeting yesterday about the looming language teacher shortage. "This man is qualified in an area where we do need people. It is totally ridiculous and we will be getting MPs on to it."

Hull education authority paid a grant of about Pounds 3,000 for Mr Ouedraogo to complete a post-graduate course in education at the city's university in 1992. He has been unable to take up a number of jobs teaching French because he is a foreign national and prospective employers have to prove nobody else in the area is qualified, or applied for the vacancy.

"It is incredible that he got this far and is now prevented from carrying out the job for which he is trained and for which we have largely paid," Mrs Wilding said.

Mr Ouedraogo heard about the course while working as a language assistant in Leeds organised by the Central Bureau of Exchanges and Visits. The university was targeting foreign language speakers for their PGCE courses after the government told colleges to put forward schemes to reduce the language teacher shortage.

"There was active and official encouragement for this man to take the course, " said John Fergusson, a member of the policy committee and ALL executive.

After saving for two years and borrowing heavily, Mr Oedraogo moved from France where he had lived for nine years and enrolled in 1992 to take the PGCE, specifically designed for teaching in British schools.

A school in Bexley gave Mr Oedraogo a one-year contract in July 1993 and the Department for Education granted him a two-year work permit. The head of Thamesmead Community College, John Sherbourne, said the shortage of language teachers is so great he often travels to Europe on recruitment drives. Because of cuts Mr Oedraogo's contract was not renewed.

"It is such a shame because he is a highly qualified man and would have thrived and made a very good teacher," said Mr Sherbourne. "I have spoken to other heads across the country who report the same difficulties in attracting language teachers and here we have a good candidate and the only reason he cannot work is because of Home Office bureaucracy."

"I have filled in over 50 forms since I came to Britain," says Mr Ouedraogo. "But still I am not allowed to teach here."

Although it denies a shortage in foreign language teachers, the Teacher Training Agency admit there will be "more of a squeeze" in years to come. The agency says it would like to see people like Mr Oedraogo given more opportunity.

The ALL accuses the Department for Education and Employment of taking a narrow view. "We need to expose the anomaly whereby one department says 'we need you' and another says 'get out, you don't conform to our rules'," Mr Fergusson said.

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