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Waterford man learns to read after nervous breakdown

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Waterford man learns to read after nervous breakdown

Waterford's Maurice Sammon helps launch National Adult Literacy Agency campaign

County Waterford man has helped launch the National Adult Literacy Agency’s (NALA) campaign calling on all political parties to prioritise the one in six adults with literacy difficulties in Ireland. 

Tramore's Maurice Sammon is a student with Waterford Wexford ETB. He is also on NALA’s student subcommittee. Maurice has featured in many media interviews and taken part in many events to raise awareness about adult literacy, after hiding his difficulties with reading and writing from everyone for 40 years. 

One in six Irish adults has difficulty reading and understanding information – that’s over 520,000 people. One in four (750,000 people) struggle with maths and even more find technology difficult to use and face increasing challenges in the digital age. This has a devastating impact on individuals, communities, the economy and society, according to the NALA. 

Literacy students and the NALA are calling on all political parties to show greater action on adult basic education and for the public to vote for candidates on February 8 who will prioritise people with unmet literacy, numeracy and digital skills needs.

“I went straight into work without the ability to read or write, and spent the next 40 years hiding that fact. My 'big secret' made me introverted - I couldn’t apply for jobs in case I was asked to sign a form or to read something. I couldn’t learn a skill like carpentry or block-laying because there were exams that I wouldn’t be able to take because of my reading and writing," Maurice says. 

"I hid it because I believed it was a weakness. I always believed that I was less than everyone else. Then about four years ago I suffered a nervous breakdown. While I was lying in hospital I thought, 'I have to put all this behind me. I have to make the best of the life I've got left'.

"I went down to the Adult Education Centre in Waterford. I was nervous but the tutor Emma really put me at ease. The next part was simple. She asked me what I'd like to learn and I replied, 'I'd like to be able to read and write with confidence'. They took it from there, and within 12 months I was reading. It's such a gift. 

"Mags is my direct tutor and I remember one day at the beginning she told me, ‘Maurice there’s nothing wrong with your reading. You just need to allow yourself to read.’ That day, it was like a door opened and the sun shone in," adds Maurice.