THE PROGRAMS IN COMMON: CHALLENGES
The following two chapters of The Language of Literacy: A National Resource Directory of Aboriginal Literacy Programs attempt to situate two aspects of literacy programming which are fundamental to the future viability of Aboriginal literacy in Canada. This chapter will attempt to identify and discuss what Aboriginal literacy practitioners themselves have identified as the most common challenges to the success of their program endeavours. The chapter following in this Directory will present our view, reiterated by literacy practitioners themselves, of the key variables or indicators of a "successful" literacy program. The inclusion of this information should serve to situate the current condition of Aboriginal literacy programs in Canada.
The national survey of Aboriginal literacy programs conducted for this resource directory concludes emphatically that there is no ideal Aboriginal literacy program; nor is there a typical one. Rather, all programs encountered have adapted to the needs and requirements of both the learners and the communities they serve. Literacy program coordinators have done their utmost to meet the needs of the learners with whatever resources are available, and the quality of program offerings almost always relate to the availability and comprehensiveness of resources. (For the purposes of this document, resources are defined in the broadest possible context - and could include print materials and non-print, such as audio-visual and computer software.)
However, results of the national survey for the resource directory did identify a number of common obstacles or challenges facing Aboriginal literacy programs in Canada.
Generally, the national research conducted for this Resource Directory confirms that, in addition to a uniform, almost passionate, degree of commitment and ability demonstrated by program coordinators and practitioners, the more successful of the program initiatives hold a number of characteristics in common. In other words, programs that have survived the ravages of scarcity and continuously enjoy the support of Aboriginal policy-makers, leaders and learners in the community share common characteristics such as supportive community leadership, competent program staff with opportunities for professional development, community support resources ranging from educational and life-counseling, to day-care and transportation assistance, adequate human and financial resources, relevant, personalized programming, and curriculum with the availability of consistent human intervention.
Conversely, the national research conducted for the Resource Directory was also interested in determining the perspective of coordinators/practitioners on the current outstanding challenges and obstacles facing the Aboriginal literacy movement in general and their own individual programs in particular. Considering the gravity of some of these challenges, we are tempted to be melodramatic and suggest that in many Aboriginal communities, it is amazing that the program survives.