This past year I have been working in my spare time with my friends in the Ransackers Association to organise a series of seminars and workshops about learning in later life. We were fortunate to get some Big Lottery funding (Awards for All) to run the sessions and pay for a professional video explaining what Ransackers does and some of the stories of the 600+ people who have taken part since the beginning in 2004.
The name Ransackers comes from the Gaelic word Rannsachadh meaning to explore, scrutinise and discover: exactly what the project founder, the late Vi Hughes, wanted for this group of older people. They see the project as an `Educational Adventure’ because it enables people of 55 + years, who have not previously had the opportunity of higher education, to engage in college life by studying and researching a project of their own choosing, ending up with a 5-10,000 word thesis. Colleges have provided tutorial, IT and study skills support - many students will not have written an essay or thought about academic work since they left school. Some Ransackers have gone on to complete full degrees, from BA/BSc to PhDs. All Ransackers students return to their communities better informed and more confident to carry out whatever commitments they may have.
However, in the current economic climate the whole concept of adult learning for its own sake – as opposed to for employment purposes – has taken a kicking and Ransackers has felt the impact badly as the participating HE colleges, one after another, have withdrawn from running these courses. The sessions we held this year have been looking at ways to take this adventure forward, and the skills necessary for active Ransackers to fight for this principle and produce opportunities for older people in the future similar to the ones they have enjoyed.
The video that the Ransackers created with Nick Foxell is available here
Please take a look at it. I defy you not to be moved by some of these accounts of passion for learning and the very joy of it. If you would like to help, get in touch via the Ransackers website or contact me, Caroline Holland, via CABS.