‘It’s changed my life tremendously’

Students say Adult Basic Education is essential, ahead of Adult Literacy Action Plan public consultations

Adam Pike
Kicker News

Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its hardworking, strong-willed inhabitants. But the province lags behind the rest of Canada in education.

According to the provincial government, 15.7 per cent of people between the ages of 25-64 in Newfoundland and Labrador do not have high school certification – a number higher than the national average of 11.5 per cent.

To combat this startling statistic, the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour has announced the development of an Adult Literacy Action Plan – an initiative designed to ensure students receive the supports needed to achieve success. It’s the first time the province has had such an initiative since 2000.

But in the eyes of many students, the answer to the province’s illiteracy is Adult Basic Education (ABE).

Approximately 2,000 students are enrolled in various ABE programs across the province annually and roughly 400 of those students will graduate from Level 3 ABE. Last year, Patti Miller was one of those graduates. This year, she’s taking classes at Memorial University.

The provincial government hopes to combat illiteracy with the Adult Literacy Action Plan. Submitted photo.

“It’s changed my life tremendously,” said Miller. “Getting my high school diploma allowed me to enter post-secondary education.”

Miller decided to pursue her diploma after being out of school for 30 years. After graduating last year, she was accepted into the medical device reprocessing course at MUN.

Even as a mature student, Miller faced many difficulties in obtaining her education. While she points to the high cost of food and transportation as two factors preventing students from graduating, Miller says her hardest challenge was adjusting to a slower paced lifestyle.

“I’m a very energetic person,” she said. “Sitting on my ass for 17 months to obtain a high school diploma was challenging mentally and physically.”

For other graduates like Haley Trask, ABE programs offered a more comfortable environment to learn in than a high school classroom.

“It’s a much better environment than high school,” said Trask. “The staff and teachers genuinely care and want you to succeed.”

Trask was a hard working student in high school, but a mental illness overtook her life in the final months of the school year and prevented her from finishing Grade 12. After becoming a mother she entered an ABE program, where she recently received her high school diploma.

“Finally receiving my diploma made me incredibly happy,” she said. “It’s a huge achievement for me; especially as a single mother.”

Finishing an ABE program should be viewed as a dream come true, but for Miller a nightmare was just beginning.

When she received her diploma, Miller says her funding was immediately cut. This forced her to seek employment immediately. She sites this as an issue government should address in the Adult Literacy Action Plan.

“They should extend funding for one to two weeks after you graduate, said Miller. “To help ease your transition back into the work force.”

Public consultations sessions for the Adult Literacy Action Plan are scheduled to take place at College of the North Atlantic’s Corner Brook and Prince Phillip Drive campuses March 26-28.

The sessions at the CNA Prince Philip Drive campus in St. John’s will take place at 6 p.m. on March 27 and 28.

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