Thank God It's Friday

Helen Hughes

Monday The college car park is full by 8.30am, but I just manage to get to class in time. I greet each student: "salaam alekum," "strasvitye," "ni hao," "bonjour," "benyibesh". Jaza shuffles up to me, mumbles an apology for his outburst in the coffee room last week, and shows me a letter. It's from a psychologist to the immigration department, and relates how Jaza had to watch members of his family being tortured and killed in Iraq. "So, sometimes, I get angry," he whispers.

Tuesday Young Hersh helps me clear up after class. He's heading for my locker with a pile of dictionaries when he turns on his heel and dumps them back on the desk. "The girls are there," he says. Sure enough, a group of young women are waiting to go into their classroom. I smile and tell him they won't hurt him, but I know what he'll say. "I'm too shy." He hurries off down the corridor, turning deep pink as he edges past the girls.

Wednesday The secretary hands me back last term's registers, saying they're incomplete. I haven't added up the number of students present each day, possible and actual hours of attendance for each student, and total possible and actual student hours for the class. I tell her hours of tedious clerical work were not in my job description, but she insists.

"Every other tutor does it."

Thursday Kitione is always cheerful, gracious, kindly and outgoing. But today he sits at the back in a silent, black depression. I ask him what's wrong, although I know already. I've seen this appalling transformation before. "My asylum application is refused. I don't know what I will do."

After class I talk with him, try to breathe a little hope into him. His attempts to smile are ghastly. He walks away with stooped shoulders.

FridaY My day off. I work in my garden and try to heal my wounds.

Helen Hughes teaches ESOL part-time at Huddersfield technical college

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Helen Hughes

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