Northland adults signing up for literacy and numeracy classes

Demand from adults needing help with basic tasks such as filling out a form is showing a need for increased literacy support in Northland.

Jaime Lyth, Northern Advocate

April 13, 2023

April 13, 2023

Literacy Aotearoa tutor Ashley Wati (Photo / Tania Whyte)

Demand from adults needing help with basic tasks such as filling out a form is showing a need for increased literacy support in Northland.

In 2020, Literacy Aotearoa had 341 people enrolled in its literacy and numeracy programmes across Kaitaia, Dargaville and Whangārei.

This number doesn't paint the full picture. A tutor says Covid has impacted enrolments greatly - in 2019 there were 444 enrolled, and a whopping 600 enrolled in 2018.

Literacy Aotearoa is a national not-for-profit organisation that provides free literacy, language and numeracy classes for adults and whānau in Kaitāia, Dargaville and Whangārei.

Ashley Wati has been tutoring for eight years and says what sets the courses apart is recognising that not everyone is at the same stage and providing one-on-one help.

"We're learner-centred, we cater to their needs, we adapt."

Wati teaches courses in Dargaville, where she lives, and in the past two years, she has also started commuting to Whangārei to teach classes.
"Transitioning into Whangārei, I didn't expect the need to be so high ... the need's actually quite a lot higher here than in Dargaville."

She said the job can be a "bit of a reality check," and coming from a small town like Dargaville she was surprised at the demand for the services in Whangārei.

"It's just the basics, filling out a form, you don't realise what you take for granted."

The courses range from literacy and numeracy to work readiness programmes with custom programmes for Māori, Pasifika and for disabled communities.

Literacy and numeracy are more than just what you learn in school, Wati said her role helps educate people on how to manage every step of life, from writing a CV to buying a car.

Those with a lack of support and education in literacy and numeracy can be more vulnerable, explained Wati.

"They have no understanding of the basic numeracy and how long (money) is supposed to last them."

Wati is currently teaching a course that supports adult learners preparing to sit their driver's licence test, an achievement that Wati said will have a long-term knock-on effect on students' lives.

"They just really want some independence ... it's a stepping stone to employment."

Wati said she still gets calls and visits from students years after she's taught them, who thank her for helping them on their path to getting a driver's licence or a new job.

"I still have a (previous) student, he's probably 68, and he comes in at least once every three months just to ask, how are you, would you like a coffee."

"You've made a big impact in their life and you definitely realise how rewarding it is."

The youngest student Wati currently teaches is 16, while the oldest is around 60 years old, but they all leave the classroom with a boost in confidence and independence.

"Head up high, smiles on faces ... that's the confidence that you see in someone when they walk out that door."

Literacy Aotearoa CEO Bronwyn Yates said: "there is a continued high adult literacy and numeracy issue that needs to be recognised in New Zealand."

"School simply did not work for everyone and many people are well into their adult lives before they are in a position to access literacy and numeracy services."

One in four adults in Aotearoa have literacy difficulties in their everyday lives, Yates said, that's more than 1.25 million adults.

"Northland adult learners are hard to reach as many feel immobilised and vulnerable that they can't read or write."

Basic computer and digital skills to support Northlands elderly community stay connected during Covid have been popular in the region.

"We are reaching Northland whānau with grandparents coming in with their mokopuna, to learn more about technology so they can interact on tablets, mobiles, computers and other devices with them at home."

Read full article here.