Imagine, at age 59, being unable to spell boat, step or help. “It feels disgusting when you can’t read or write,” says Bob. “But now I’m doing something about it.”
Bob is a participant in The Salvation Army’s STages Education Program (STEP) in Winnipeg. The community-based adult literacy program is open to anyone with a low literacy level, usually below Grade 6.
“Literacy gives people a foundation where they have skills, self-worth and realize their goals,” says Carley, LEEP teacher. “Things they thought impossible become possibilities.”
The consequences of dropping out
As a teen, Bob struggled to complete Grade 7. “I was pushed to advance to the next level but felt I still needed a lot to learn,” says Bob. “I was frustrated, so I left.”
Over the years low literacy levels affected many areas of Bob’s life such as his ability to read his mail, help his children with school work or read instructions on a medicine bottle.
“I was at my last job for 15 years,” says Bob. “When they found out I couldn’t read or write, they said, ‘Get out the door.’”
At STEP there is no set curriculum and an education plan is developed for each student. The program goals are to enhance literacy skills, develop self-worth and self-discipline, improve social responsibility and nurture mental and physical well-being. Classes include reading, writing, math, social studies, computers and life skills.
“I often teach students who haven’t been to school for many years due to various reasons,” says Carley. “Some have been caring for sick family members. Others have been in trouble with the law and others didn’t have a good experience in the education system.”
“I’ve learned how to write words such as like, help and wanted,” says Bob, with a smile. “I feel better about my life and coming here makes me want to get up in the morning. When I look at a job application I understand what they are asking for, like my address. I couldn’t do that before.”