The learning achievements of 17 women prisoners have been recognised by Education Minister Chris Hipkins at a graduation at Christchurch Women’s Prison.

The certificates of learning, presented by Minister Hipkins on Thursday, 5 July covered a range of qualifications from Foundation Skills to Tertiary Skills Level 4, NCEA 1 and 2 and Horticulture vocational courses.

“The Minister’s attendance at this event demonstrates the importance of these achievements to the graduates and to other women in the prison,” says Prison Director Deb Alleyne. “Many of the women we care for have very low levels of literacy and education; this helps build their confidence and their opportunities for employment and engagement in the community.”

*Minister Hipkins congratulates a graduate (Corrections Southern Region Commissioner, Ben Clark in background)“For many people in the community these may seem small accomplishments, but to these women these are major life milestones. Learning, and believing you are capable of learning and achieving, opens a world of future opportunities for the women.”

“Most of the women in our care are also mothers, and the new-found skills and confidence gained from these courses will enable them to engage in their children’s education and send a signal about the importance of learning throughout your life. It sets them up to be much more positive role models.”

The New Zealand Certificate in Foundation Skills is delivered at the prison by the Open Polytechnic. The polytechnic delivers this course at prisons across New Zealand.“The success of education within this sector depends on partnerships such as these and the continual support and recognition of the value of education for these learners,” says Open Polytechnic Chief Executive Dr Caroline Seelig.

Graduates perform a waiata.

“The foundation programme delivered in prisons is designed to meet the needs of learners who have not previously had success in their educational experiences, targeting the development of essential skills in literacy and numeracy, social, vocational and academic skills.  The students learn techniques and strategies for personal health and wellbeing and emotional growth.”Open Polytechnic provide people in prisons with access to entry into tertiary level learning with the provision of the Tertiary Study Skills course and the Fundamentals of Small Business course at Level 4, a practical course that gives learners skills and knowledge to start their own business when they return to the community.

The partnership between Open Polytechnic and the Department of Corrections allows the programmes to be delivered by distance, giving learners the flexibility to study around other rehabilitative and constructive activities. They are supported by education tutors on-site and the Open Polytechnic delivery support both on and off their campus.

*Kaiwhakamana, Henare Edwards welcomes the Minister and his party to the prison.

“This ceremony recognises the distance travelled by these learners, the commitment they have made to themselves, to their whānau and their communities, and the commitment of those who have supported them. Open Polytechnic is proud to work in partnership with Corrections to create innovative ways to successfully deliver the New Zealand Certificate in Foundation Skills and Tertiary Study Skills,” says Dr Seelig.

Women graduating the Horticulture skills programme within the prison have had the opportunity to develop a broad skills base and gain qualifications through a variety of courses. These include certificates in work essential areas, like First Aid, Site Safe, Grow Safe, Fork Lift, and Open Space Mowing Site Safe.

“We find that once the women start learning, it opens up a whole new world to them,” says Deb Alleyne. “They get more curious about the world around them and start to believe in how they can take more control about their futures. Through education they gain independence and become more self determining in their lives.”

Read the coverage on Stuff website.