Hagley Adult Literacy Centre (HALC) provides opportunities for learners to develop their literacy, numeracy, communication and computer skills, helping adults learn English, gain qualifications, find a job and participate in the community.

In their May report to TEC this year HALC noted that they had 59 former refugee learners and 245 migrant learners enrolled in their programmes.

Some of these adults have their children enrolled in Hagley’s preschool.

In 2020 the preschool was funded by the Ministry of Education to run a Teacher-Led Innovation Project. It was during this time of reflection and learning that the Director and kaiako at the preschool became acutely aware of the challenges that whānau face when settling into Ōtautahi/Aotearoa.

“We held onto the idea,” says Director Jocelyn Wright, “that one day we might find a way to facilitate a whānau-type parenting workshop.”

The idea, it turned out, was also top of mind for both the Hagley Adult Literacy Centre and for the refugee and migrant community itself.

Jocelyn: “A group of women from the Mixing Bowl, which is a voluntary group, that has some connection with Hagley as well as Christchurch Resettlement Services, came to see me. They had secured some funding and wanted to put it to good use. So we came to an agreement. The preschool’s kaiako would plan and facilitate a six-week parenting course, HALC would fund the kaiako release and the Mixing Bowl would attend to manaakitanga with food, information sharing, interpreters and a venue. We planned for a six-week course.”

“Then Ministry of Education said they would provide some funding from their Reading Together Programme, so we extended it to a 10-week course held for two hours each week and it was agreed that the programme would be open to any adult students in college – of refugee and migrant background – who had young children not just Hagley pre-schoolers.”

There were 17 participants in the past year’s course. This year there are 15 and although the Mixing Bowl group was not available, ChCh Resettlement services continued to attend to manaakitanga.

Namrud Gebreab, who is both a homework centre coordinator and a support worker providing pastoral care for refugees and migrants at Hagley, was the interpreter for the Eritrean whānau. He says that the course filled an important knowledge gap:

“The new families don’t know the systems here. A common issue for parents on the programme was what to feed their children. The diet is different, and they don’t know about nutrition and what to feed their children in this country. They also don’t know about reading together and how to play with kids. The parenting here is quite different. Our parents are used to hovering around their children and doing everything for them. They are helicopter parents.

“At the session they were very open to listening. They wanted to adapt to the new culture. Most of our parents had limited education themselves. They are learning the big barrier – language. The programme is giving them the opportunity to learn how to be good parents in New Zealand.

“Some have come back for a second programme, and I have seen a huge change in them. They are now using play and much more interaction with their children. They are reading to them and telling stories. They are letting their children be more independent. As one mother said, she now lets her son carry his own bag and put it away. Before she felt it was her job. And their way of punishment has changed.”

Jocelyn says that the parents of pre-schoolers learned a lot about language development.

“They are reading together more, using picture books to guess what comes next and to build children’s vocabulary. We also talk about the difference between fiction and nonfiction – how to make reading fun, making reading a habit every night.

“New learning needs are being suggested by participants all the time. For example the parents have wanted to learn more about how to support their children learning at home, what to do about ‘fussy’ eaters, how they can support home languages, more on art and creativity, how to limit screen time, and basic first aid.

“There are real benefits for the parents when they get together and share experiences – and our teachers now have a much stronger relationship with whānau.”