by Amanda Scales
My learning journey began with no other aim or desire in mind than to steal away from a very stressful life and snatch a few precious hours, in which I could be myself and enjoy learning for the sheer pleasure of learning for learning’s sake.
In those stolen few hours, I was able to recharge my batteries, feel like Amanda the person once again and then return to my somewhat stressed circumstances with a little bit of hope that I had not lost myself for ever.
Eight years later and I am still on, what I know now to be, a life-long learning journey. Throughout those years, there were occasions when I felt inadequate, shed tears and sometimes collapsed in complete and utter exhaustion. Those moments are all what I know now to be an important part of my journey. The journey which has built my confidence, given me self-esteem and untold satisfaction and pleasure.
Now, I am a somewhat seasoned traveler on this journey of lifelong learning, I realise that what began as desperate stolen moments for self-survival had changed along the way. I realised I loved learning with a passion, I loved my subject.
I became ravenous for knowledge, for new experiences and stimulation and optimistically created a self which said yes to as much learning as I could fit into my life. Achieving my goals was all consuming, I was literally swept along with learning and being at Sussex University, taking part in the odd sit-in and Stop the Cuts Demonstration.
I couldn’t quite believe it, me Amanda protesting – the cheek of it! I loved every second!
When in 2012 I was awarded Outstanding Learner for the South East by NIACE, I was overjoyed, for my journey had been an intense private and personal struggle that I thought only I really was aware of. This moment became a major changing point in my life, for one of the many wonderful things about being a NIACE winner is that you begin to look at your learning journey through new eyes. I was proud of myself and it was okay to say it, as the good people here at NIACE had said it first.
For the first time I reflected on my path and began to truly appreciate what it had given me. I had found the real me. I wasn’t just a mum, a single parent struggling bringing up my 4 children in poverty. I was a success, I was achieving my learning goals and it was fantastic and NIACE believed in me. In fact it was so fantastic, I wanted everybody else all to be able to experience it as well; this is when I knew I wanted to be a teacher. To enable, motivate and inspire others to take up their own learning journeys.
A year later I am now a qualified teacher, but I feel more than that. In my heart and mind, I now feel like a Warrior – a Warrior for equality and access to opportunity for all. I am passionately committed to breaking down barriers to learning.
The last year especially, has been very revealing and opened my eyes to the lack of opportunity available to a large percentage of the community in which I daily exist.
People of all ages, who go through life at a disadvantage, people who dream of a better future, but do not know how to begin the journey. People who struggle with poor basic literacy and communication skills who are knocked back frequently by their failure to fill in forms correctly, ask the right questions and even sometimes understand the answers. This physically stops them achieving success and mentally crushes their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Equality in access to opportunity can only be gained by enabling all of society, who so wish it, to gain an education. Education liberates. It gives a voice to the silent. It gives confidence to those lacking. It raises self-esteem. It promotes the ability to question and go forward in life. It lifts you out of ignorance and lets you fly. Without access to adult education there is no real equality within our society.
So I ask when you leave here, we make our number one priority the most precious gift that our country can give to its people. The gift of education, be it vocational, informal or formal. Because each and every course or programme has a person waiting for an opportunity to access it, someone, who desperately wants to change their life, become enabled and is just seeking motivation, encouragement and accessibility. I want us to leave thinking ‘how can I help people to fly?’