Pris­on­ers cel­e­brate lit­er­acy suc­cess

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN WIL­LIAMS

For two years, ‘‘each Fri­day for most of the morn­ing’’, Howard League vol­un­teer Lindsay Mitchell has been teach­ing English to a pris­oner stu­dent at Rimu­taka.

A Span­ish speaker, the pris­oner had ar­rived at Rimu­taka with ‘‘very poor, very ba­sic ‘‘ English skills.

On Oc­to­ber 4, the 37-year-old was one of seven men to grad­u­ate from the New Zealand Howard League’s lit­er­acy pro­gramme, one of a hun­dred who have been part of the work at the Up­per Hutt prison over sev­eral years.

‘‘When I came here I had no un­der­stand­ing, no English,’’ the over­seas-born pris­oner said. ‘‘No one un­der­stood me and I un­der­stood noth­ing.’’

His sit­u­a­tion made a hard prison life even harder. He hap­pily re­mem­bers the mo­ment he com­mit­ted to learn his ‘‘new’’ lan­guage through the op­por­tu­nity of­fered by the Howard League.

‘‘The first lessons were re­ally hard, re­ally dif­fi­cult but Lindsay ex­plained things to me well and af­ter a cou­ple of months I started to en­joy it.

‘‘I want to study more, it’s the best way to find a good life,’’ he said.

A ‘‘pro­fes­sional chef’’, he is look­ing to a bet­ter fu­ture.

‘‘I want to find a job out­side and work hard and save money and then I’ll look for a place for my own restau­rant,’’ he said.

Mitchell, from East­bourne, was proud of her stu­dent’s achieve­ment. ‘‘He’s been a bit of a gift to me re­ally,’’ she said. ‘‘He’s got an end­less cu­rios­ity and he’s very self-di­rected.’’

Chief Jus­tice Dame Sian Elias at­tended the Rimu­taka cer­e­mony which also recog­nised grad­u­ates from a new Te Kura Cor­re­spon­dence School learn­ing group, aug­mented by League vol­un­teers.

‘‘Learn­ing as an adult take spe­cial ef­fort and de­ter­mi­na­tion and courage,’’ Elias said.

‘‘Read­ing is es­sen­tial to par­tic­i­pa­tion in any so­ci­ety, how­ever small and closed; how­ever big and open. So it mat­ters in this place, as well as out­side.’’

She told the achiev­ing pris­on­ers they ‘‘had not just reached a des­ti­na­tion but had com­mit­ted to a jour­ney’’.

‘‘You have learned how to learn. And you’ve done it the hard way.’’

PHOTO: COLIN WIL­LIAMS/STUFF

Tu­tor Lindsay Mitchell from East­bourne with a Rimu­taka pris­oner who grad­u­ated from a lit­er­acy pro­gramme through the New Zealand Howard League.

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