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West Auckland Adult Learner Awards 2018

The launch

This year the Festival of Adult Learning Ahurei Ākonga (formerly Adult Learners’ Week He Tangata Mātauranga) was launched on Saturday, September 1 at Rutherford College, West Auckland. The launch marked the beginning of a week of events across the country.

West Auckland, as Pale Sauni the MC for the launch pointed out, is one of the communities in Aotearoa New Zealand where ACE continues to really thrive. And the day proved his point. There is still a strong ACE network in this community, dating back to 1974 when Rutherford College, along with three other secondary schools, was selected to provide adult learning classes for their communities. That was the beginning of school-delivered ACE. Today Rutherford is one of just a small group of schools receiving TEC funding to provide adult education classes, maintaining a community culture of lifelong learning.

In the school’s hall, where the launch was held, a large and beautifully presented display of photographs illustrated the breadth of the courses currently on offer. Last year Andrea Cameron and her team at Community Education organised over 160 courses which were attended by over 2500 students.

The Week was launched by Charissa Waerea, ACE Aoteroa’s Tangata Whenua Chair. She reminded those present that the Festival of Adult Learning Ahurei Ākonga is a UNESCO sponsored event held in more than 40 countries. It is a celebration which reminds us that we are global citizens and part of a global movement working to empower adults to take their rightful place in their communities, countries and the world.

Gary Moore from Rutherford College welcomed everyone on behalf of the college and the college kapa haka group provided entertainment.

The importance of ACE to this community was reflected in the high number of MPs present. The Hon Phil Twyford, Deborah Russell, and Alfred Ngaro all spoke positively about the value of adult and community education. It is a sector that provides not only second chance learning, but opportunities for social inclusion and increased participation.

As usual, the highlight of the event was hearing adult learners’ stories.

Following the launch, participants were able to attend the ACE Expo at Te Atatu library and community centre where locals were browsing the stalls of over 35 local ACE organisations. They also could take part in the awards ceremony at which the nominations and the winners of four awards were announced: the Outstanding Adult Learner Award; the Exceptional Adult Educator Award; the Innovative Provider Award and the Lifelong Adult Learner Award: many proud, successful adult learners. 

The learner stories

Kanku Lufuluabo

I am originally from the Congo and have been living in New Zealand for 4 years. When I first came to New Zealand I couldn’t speak and understand English and that was really hard for me and it used to make me sad. But then I got connected with government organisations in the community which provided assistance, such as interpreters for migrants. I also started learning English for ESOL beginners’ level at what was once WEA in Waitakere. And that’s where my study journey began. I managed to complete level 1 to level 4 English at different learning institutions such as the Salvation Army Education and Employment Centre and Unitec. These ESOL classes in Auckland really made a difference to my life.

While studying I noticed that my vocabulary was improving, and I could understand and make small conversations in English. This gave me the confidence and motivation to pursue further studies. I wanted to do a course that would allow me to give back to the New Zealand community... so I chose a mental health course. I started with a Community Skills course... I have recently finished my Mental Health and Addiction course and am actively looking for employment. I thank the New Zealand Government and all my teachers. I wouldn’t have made it this far without your help.

James Halliday

High school and I did not agree with each other with the result that I ended up being expelled at the age of 14 and went on to do alternative education. While there, I did very well... [but] I never managed to achieve any NCEA credits, as they were not offered in the courses I did. When I decided that I wanted to start looking for work my mum thought it would benefit me to get my NCEA level 1 and 2 in English and maths. I was very reluctant to do this as I thought I would not do well... With the support of my family and partner, I enrolled in Rutherford night school courses... I turned up for every class and actually thoroughly enjoyed myself and what surprised me the most is that I actually liked learning. I found the teachers very nice, understanding, knowledgeable, supportive and felt like they actually wanted to help me in my goal...

From doing these night classes I have boosted my self-confidence, self-esteem and I have learned skills that have helped me to get a good full time job which I really enjoy and I am doing really well at. I would just like to thank all the people that help make adult and community education programmes possible and to all the people who have supported me throughout my journey.

Ioane Ikenasio

Coming to Literacy Waitākere to study English has helped me a lot. When I joined the Pasifika group, I found the wonderful people there very supportive. We were like a family and we shared our knowledge with each other. I've been in my group for nearly a year now. And I'm so proud to say it's amazing. I can spell big words by breaking them into syllables now. I learn more than ten new words a week. We read newspaper articles. All these activities are followed by a very tough part of our learning – we stand up in front of the class and explain something about the story that we've read. But now, I'm so happy to say to you all, I have the confidence to use my second language to stand in front of my church choir and teach them to sing English songs.

Today I have to say a huge thank you to all the friendly tutors at Literacy Waitākere New Lynn for their wonderful work. My big and my nonstop thanks to our beautiful tutor Mrs Anne Chen... It is not an easy job for the teacher to lead us right from the bottom to the top. It's like building the Sky City. The bottom should be built firmly with a powerful structure. Thank you once again, Mrs Anne Chen, for your love, your patience, not only that but you are a good mother to us. Every day I go home with my bag of knowledge because of you.

Elaine Waters

Ten years ago I suddenly lost my eyesight to a rare disease. Devastated and homebound I knew I needed a hand to get up and running again. My first outing from my house was at a Rutherford Adult Education Pottery class... Wow!! This opportunity gave me so much more than learning a new skill. Over the 6 week course, my self-esteem and self-confidence reached a new height. Life changing for me really. I felt reconnected to my community and made new friends along the way. Don’t get me wrong I was a nervous wreck on my first night. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! With a bit of guidance from my tutor Raewyn, I ended up looking forward to my Wednesday nights. In fact, I ended up feeling rather proud of myself...

I’m also very happy to share with you all that since my pottery classes I’ve had two successful exhibitions... None of this would’ve been possible without Raewyn and Andrea’s support. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank them for their ongoing support and thank them for everything they have done for me on this road to recovery. 

Around the country

Festival of Adult Learning Ahurei Ākonga events were held throughout the country. We have space here to mention just a few centres but you can see the rest on our website.

In Blenheim there was a week packed full of activities organised by Marlborough REAP. People could take part in about 30 taster learning opportunities such as getting tips about money management, how to drive safely as an older person, how to cook wild food, how to get the best out of your cell phone, conscious parenting, te reo for mums and babes, basic mechanics to help maintain your car and tips for running a small business.

Christchurch activities included sessions held at libraries where people could get help with writing a CV, using email, searching the internet, using the library catalogue, using electronic resources and getting answers to any other general computer related queries. Risingholme Community Centre collaborated with Hagley College Adult Literacy for a well attended awards ceremony, Literacy Christchurch had an awards ceremony, the Canterbury WEA marked the week and some environment groups got together to run a sustainability festival where people could learn about urban pest control, composting, recycling and making houses warmer.

This year the Whanganui Learning Centre celebrated the Festival of Adult Learning with over 18 different community workshops and an exhibition, Ngā Hekenga, Journeying. The exhibition was the culmination of a community wide activity, with a focus on oral language that connected the community through stories of migration. The Festival programme and exhibition attracted over 1000 participants celebrating the themes of cultural connections, sustainability and connecting education across the community. 

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Spring Newsletter 2018.