Literacy – let’s get started

For years Ireland was lauded as having the most highly educated people in Europe, but lately we have learned to our shame that we have failed our citizens, as one in four people in Ireland cannot read, write or have problems with maths.

You may have someone close to you who struggles with literacy, who always seems to have forgotten their glasses, so they ask you to read for them, or who can’t see the text so ask their children to write it for them. It doesn’t need to be clear or obvious that they have difficulties with literacy, but if you look below the surface you can see that they are hiding their daily struggle.

In 1980 the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) was formed and began to work as an umbrella body for all those agencies involved in providing courses in literacy in the country. To give you an example of someone who had challenges with reading and writing let me introduce John. John is a builder from Dublin and left school at 14, he worked as a labourer until the recession forced him out of work. He found applying for jobs soul-destroying as his writing wasn’t up to scratch, but after he confided in his wife he was able to start an adult literacy course and is now applying to college to study. Challenges in literacy can rob people of employment opportunites, reading to their children, reading newspapers, books and of course the internet.

There are lots of reasons why people find themselves having difficulty reading and writing – they may have left school early and never used reading again in their working life or home life and they lose confidence. They may have been in a very large class in school where their educational needs weren’t met or they could have poor speech or poor hearing. Maybe they were brought up in poverty where education wasn’t a priority, and of course free education wasn’t available until 1967.

So for some reason or another, a large proportion of the adults in Ireland slipped through the net and were marginalised and isolated because of their limited ability to read, write or use modern technology. Thankfully NALA have courses all over the country and locally here in Ringsend College. Maria Riordan runs local courses and can be contacted in confidence by calling 01-668 4571 or by calling the national freefone 1800 20 20 65.

By Joan Mitchell