Bonnie Dewart is going the extra mile in her role as an ESOL home tutor with Sara Ahamad, by also giving her weekly driving lessons.
With six children to care for, aged from four to 18 years old, Sara rarely leaves the house during the day.
In addition to their hour-long English lesson during the week, each Saturday the pair leaves the children in dad Ali’s capable care, and drive off in the family car with Sara at the wheel.
Sara earned her learner’s licence during her six-week orientation at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre. She is keen to gain her full licence, and with it, mobility and independence.
“I taught my kids how to drive many years ago, but the principles haven’t changed, though some road rules have,” says Bonnie. “Early on we went to a large deserted car park to practise parking, reversing and control. Each time, I try to make our drives progressively more challenging. Now Sara is confidently driving in the suburbs and has mastered roundabouts and traffic lights.
“We don’t talk too much during the drive, unless I am quizzing her on the road signs and rules – or reminding her of the speed limit!”
Bonnie says Sara is nearly ready for some more formal lessons. “To make sure I haven’t taught her any of my bad habits.”
Bonnie has been tutoring Sara in English for a year and has been treated very hospitably by the family. “They invited me to their end-of-Ramadan celebration with all their family and friends,” says Bonnie.
She says it was a wonderful occasion.“The biggest challenge for me, however, was sitting on the floor – and getting up again!”
The pair doesn’t use worksheets for their weekly lesson. Instead, they focus on real-life situations to learn and practise spelling and reading. “Recently, we spent time filling in Sara’s youngest son’s application for kindergarten,” says Bonnie.
Once he starts kindergarten, and she has more time to herself, Sara hopes to attend weekly classes at English Language Partners.
With a little more practise, and the opportunity to gain her full licence, Sara may well be driving there.
Story and photos Leigh Dome