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