A former school bus has returned to Central Otago to help with adult education.
Run by the Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa, Dora the digital bus is a mobile learning centre offering free classes on digital banking, called Stepping Up.
Dora was first fitted out as a school bus in Alexandra about 35 years ago, before being converted to a digital learning centre in 2012.
As a celebration of its history, the bus made a stately return along Tarbert St preceded by piper Keith Cameron before parking in front of the Alexandra Library.
For Earle Bailey, of Alexandra, it was a chance to revisit his past.
He drove the bus as a school bus and hire vehicle until he retired.
His main route was picking up children from Fruitlands to take them to schools in Alexandra, he said.
Mr Bailey was once again able to take a seat behind the wheel when the bus visited Alexandra, and joked he was ‘‘back in control’’.
The bus had good seats and it was used quite a bit for charters. It was a comfortable bus, Mr Bailey said.
He thought it was marvellous that Dora was now being used for digital education.
Stepping Up programme manager Sue Kini said people were offered free courses to learn more about online banking.
People were guided through tasks such as bank account transfers and automatic payments.
The courses also covered how to identify online scams.
‘‘We talk about dodgy-looking emails and what to look out for.’’
As well as classes in Alexandra, Dora the digital bus will be offering free courses across the region, including in Clyde, Roxburgh, Millers Flat, Naseby, Ranfurly, Oturehua and Omakau.
Rural Women New Zealand national president Gill Naylor, of Alexandra, visited the bus and said it was a fantastic service for people in rural areas.
Rural women who had taken part in the courses had enjoyed them and now felt far more comfortable with digital banking, Mrs Naylor said.
One of the issues around closures of bank branches in rural areas was that banks handled business as well as personal banking.
‘‘They [businesses] need to have places where they can get change and bank their money — all that sort of thing — because there is still cash out there,’’ Mrs Naylor said.
‘‘We do still need to use cash.’’
Being able to be more confident with online banking was helping, she said.