“We had one family on the East Coast where one member of the family enrolled in a REAP programme and that led to three generations of the family participating in adult education. Four of the five family members have now graduated and developed a love of learning. The grandfather, three daughters, one son and one mokopuna all participating in tertiary education through wānanga. This shows the importance of learning amongst familiar people in a familiar environment.”
A TEU member at a rural education activities programme (REAP) uses this story to show why the government needs a new Tertiary Education Strategy that recognises the importance of rural provision and the difference learning in-context makes not only to an individual, but to their family and community.
Some of TEU’s REAP members met a couple of months ago and have now drafted a vision statement for the provision of rural and regional education, which they will be sharing with other members at TEU’s annual conference next month.
The REAP workers argue that the government’s refrain that they must do more with less means courses are cut because they are seen as too small or uneconomic. And this leaves some people with nowhere to go. For example, when Waiariki Institute of Technology cut its Turangi and Taupo early childhood course prospective students were told they would need to go to Rotorua for courses. For some the cost and time involved in travelling from their community through to Rotorua was up to three hours a day.
While a programme that puts through 1000 people might look the most economically efficient it ignores the quality and benefit of smaller courses.
“You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of twelve parents learning Te Reo on the East Cape on a 10 week course which takes 1/3 of the annual budget of our REAP but those parents can communicate with their children who are in the Kohanga and Kura system.”
“Currently the government’s narrow goals mean that whole sectors of our community are missing out. For example, the focus on young people and their engagement in learning, which is important, but means there is nothing for the older members of our communities. Often REAP or ACE courses provided crucial social connectedness for older community members who had retired to rural localities who felt isolated. Where can they turn now?”