The loss of the adult education program, being axed this year by the Cowichan Valley Board of Education as they struggle to balance their budget, will be a huge blow to our communities.
For years the Citizen newspaper has covered the program’s offerings, and especially its graduation ceremony.
We’ve routinely interviewed a gaggle of grads each spring, and inevitably we’ve been inspired by their stories.
Their stories are about hope and about how it’s never too late to strive for something better.
As the grads talk about why they have chosen to go back as adults to seek their high school graduation, they often tell of how the school system failed them in some way the first time around.
Whether they had an undiagnosed learning disability, needed more flexibility, were bullied, or were just totally unmotivated by a system that can feel, to some, like a factory turning out widgets, these are rarely merely tales of individual failure.
They are tales of how our (and other areas’) schools have failed to serve some of those most in need of extra attention.
It has been a huge boon that their chance at high school graduation has not been gone forever. The free program, and that’s key — free — has allowed everyone, including our education system, to have a second chance to succeed where we have previously failed.
So while we are fortunate that Vancouver Island University is around to be able to take up some of the slack by offering courses that allow students to catch up, it’s a whole different world of tuition — a huge barrier to some.
There are assistance programs, yes, but it’s just not the same as a no-questions-asked free classroom.
Let’s face it, a lot of people don’t want to talk about it if they are struggling financially, and certainly don’t want to have to document just how needy they are.
Going back to school can be an intimidating experience at the best of times, especially for those for whom it was not a good experience in the first place.
The more barriers put in their way the less likely they are to climb that mountain.
We understand that the school board was facing an unpalatable decision whatever they did, having to but millions from their budget to be in compliance with provincial laws.
There was no good choice.
We can only hope that with the loss of adult ed, administrators, teachers and others in the system are more vigilant than ever to try to avoid having students fall between the cracks and drop out before they get that all-important diploma, for whatever reason. It’s the least, and the most, they can now do.