Periodically, the Native Womens Resource Centre receives additional funding for specific limited duration projects. In the past few years we have created and published adult learning booklets, produced and presented a stay-in-school play with the students of First Nations School, produced a family literacy manual and provided a Mobile literacy service. These projects have been funded through various sources: Canadian Give the Gift of Literacy Foundation, the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Culture and; the majority through the Native Literacy Secretariat in partnership with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Learner Recruitment, Assessment, Training, and Referral
The two current Native literacy programs are independently responsible for conducting their own learner outreach, assessments, and referrals. This has not always been the case. In 1989 or 1990, all three then-existing Native literacy programs formed a Circle of Learning and worked collaboratively to provide support to each other. It was based on this partnership that all three programs became involved in the First Nations Adult Education Project in 1993. All three programs took turns recruiting learners and hosting classes, this allowed for all three to become familiar with assessing, training, and conducting referrals with/for the same group of learners. Host agency expectations, a splintered funding base and the urgency to increase the client base have restricted these activities. Perhaps the struggle to achieve increased funding levels has led to the development of a territorial perspective toward learners, rather than a shared outcome-based partnership.
As long as each host agency remains women only, men only, or youth only, each program location recruits and assesses only those who will be welcomed at their location. Learners are forced to meet specific criteria or be referred elsewhere to a location where their comfort level may not provide an optimal learning environment. Each group of learners then works largely in isolation. Very few learners make the transition from one program to another unless supported by another need/program. If a learner has contact with another host agency with respect to a specific support service offered by that agency, a non-literacy related program provision, that learner may transfer to literacy programs at that particular agency. This situation underlines the need for Native literacy programs to develop an inter-agency strategy to more effectively serve Native learners in Toronto.
Staff Recruitment and Training
There is no accredited college program or university degree that specifically qualifies or graduates a Native literacy program coordinator/practitioner. As a result, it is up to the host social-service agencies to determine what constitutes an adequately knowledgeable and skillful Native literacy worker. Determinant factors may include the following: interpretation of Native literacy (e.g., traditional or Western-based approach), goals and aspirations of Native literacy (e.g., further mainstream education and/or work-orientation/employment or self-determination/actualization), ability to comprehend and meet funders accountability measures, ability to produce outcomes and independent motivational factors for working in the filed of Native literacy.
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