Skip Content

Todd Robertson had had enough and was about to give up applying for a new apartment despite really wanting to live in it.

It wasn’t because the area where it was situated had rough neighbours who would party all night or because the rent was too high.

Nor was it because the landlord was likely to be pushy and nosey banging on his door at all hours for spot inspections.

“The problem I had was there was an application form I had to fill in to get the apartment,” said Todd.

“Because I was illiterate I couldn’t read most of the form.”

Born with oxygen deprivation to the brain, Todd has battled with reading and numeracy fundamentals that many of us take for granted.

Despite his best efforts to keep up he was left behind as the attention he required was not granted him at the schools he attended as he got older.

When he left school he was unable to read or write or perform basic arithmetic.

Todd held down a number of mainly manual labour jobs and had roles as a street cleaner and as an inward goods administrator.

He said despite only being able to read very basic words he had employers who were understanding of his predicament.

He worked in the inward goods section for a medical supplies company but had to leave when they computerised their systems, which he could not understand.

He knew what to buy at the supermarket through memorising what things looked like.

He also remembered geographical locations so he didn’t have to learn street names.

But Todd said his illiteracy left him feeling isolated.

His illiteracy meant he has been unable to freely verbalise his thoughts resulting in difficulty in forming and maintaining friendships.

But earlier this year, he enrolled in He Papa Kupu (Certificate in Adult Learning) with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

The 36-week programme has helped him on his pathway to gaining the essential life skills in reading, writing and numeracy with the help of a kaitiaki (support person) who meets up with Todd every two months.

His kaitiaki, Dave Hotere, says he would visit Todd every two months to see how he was progressing and help him further.

“It was the first time he’s ever done any learning about punctuation and things like starting a sentence with a capital and ending it with a fullstop,” said Dave.

“Unfortunately people did not had the time to spend with him when he was younger and he had very high needs.”

Dave said there had been a marked change from the shy man who was down on confidence when they met earlier this year.

“These days you can really see the confidence with him. His self esteem has just gone up and up. It happens a lot with this course.”

Todd said the course had changed his life.

“The maths part has helped me a lot with my job. Sometimes we have a whole lot of crates come in and I had to count them so this has been a great way of learning.”

“I know the programme will get more challenging but eventually I would like to learn about pie graphs and bar graphs.”

Todd writes letters to put into practice what he has been learning.

He is also supplementing his course work with a tablet that has spelling and mathematics apps on it.

And for the first time since school, he’s started visiting the library again.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a huge reader but I like reading the Coffee News. It’s short and sweet and it’s pretty funny too.”

“These days I do the odd bit of writing. It’s taken me away from other things that were negative and made me focus more on things that are positive. I just want to progress a lot more in life.”

“I think it’s going to happen.”

Know someone who can benefit from this course too? Click here to find out more

 Back to news & events

Published On: 16 December 2015

Article By: James Ihaka

Other Articles

  • 22 August 2022

    Toi Class Encourages Self-Discovery

    Karen Nel ventured onto the Toi Maruata course in Porirua to explore indigenous arts in this part of the world and found out more about herself in the process.

  • 10 August, 2022

    Entrepeneur Hits the Spot with Spice Blends

    A little over three years ago Kavita launched the label ‘Kavita’s Kitchen’ after completing the Certificate in Small Business and Project Management course in Wellington.

  • 25 July 2022

    Wendy-Lee pursues her passion

    Wendy-Lee McKee-Warner’s love for art started at high school, where she spent all her time hanging out in the art room.

  • 14 July 2022

    Filling the toi kete

    Innovative and motivating are just some of many words that describe the well-known toi guests who have been inspiring our tauira this semester.