21.03.2013 REPORTS

An eternal optimist defends the low-qualified

GENERATION NEXT. Portuguese adult educator Inês Cerca fights against social injustice in a country under a severe economic crisis.

Until the end of March, Inês Cerca, 31, works as a trainer in a state-run learning centre. Her duties also include strengthening the validation system of adult education. The unsecure future does not defeat this young adult educator with a positive attitude.

"In my work I get inspired of following the learning processes. It is rewarding to see that learners´ gain self-esteem as they become qualified. I also get inspired of the learners. From aged learners I hear about old Portuguese traditions and history.

The most annoying feature of my work is the bureaucracy of non-formal adult education in my country. The amount of documents we have to sign per learner is tremendous, because we have to follow our national framework.

The mission of non-formal adult education is to develop learners. It gives tools to understand the world and criticize it. The second mission is to fight against poverty by giving people with low skills keys to save themselves from poverty trap.

I became an adult educator because I want to help people. My parents are teachers and as a child I wanted to become a primary teacher, too. As a teenager I realised it is not for me and went to study social sciences to the University of Coimbra. I majored in sociology and I was interested especially in developing local communities.

After graduation I worked in the University for a while, but soon I found myself working in a local development association that also did adult education. First I knew nothing about this field. Then I worked five years in a learning centre that was established in a framework of governmental "New Opportunities" programme.

In ten years I do not know where I am and what I do. This month I will be unemployed, because the government is reorganizing non-formal adult education and New Opportunities Centres cease to exist. Due to the economic crisis, people cannot make long term plans. I hope in the future I will have a chance to continue working with adult education and local communities.

In my life the most important things are my family and my job. Family and friends help us grow and develop as persons. They help us in hardships. Work is an important part of identity and through that one also gets lots of friends. I meet my previous colleagues also outside of work: we go out together for example.

I would like to educate people with low skills level, because they are in the biggest risk to slip into poverty. In the times of crisis, however, everyone needs tools to face challenges. There are for example many people with high qualifications, who have problems with managing their budget because it has suddenly rapidly decreased because of the crisis."

Text: Aura Vuorenrinne

Inês Cerca took part to EAEA´s first Younger Staff Training in 2011.

More information:

Carlos Ribeiro: "Professionals disagree with government on evaluation of Novas Oportunidades/New Opportunities" InfoNet, 17 February 2013