WINNIPEG – A national tour to discuss issues regarding First Nations education is in Manitoba this week. The National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education are holding a series of meetings from October 17 -20th, to engage with First Nations representatives as it works to develop a blueprint for action plan to ensure First Nation students have access to quality education and high school graduation rates improve.
In British Columbia the panel was told, “A funding agreement which guarantees predictable, stable and equitable financial resources remains the biggest hurdle to delivering a quality education system for First Nations students in British Columbia, First Nations leaders and educators told the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education this week. Language and cultural programming, as well as academic curriculum, were repeatedly cited as fundamental to building the confidence and identity for students to succeed in Canada’s K-12 education system and beyond. Internet connectivity and access to other technologies were also identified as key to delivering quality education to First Nations students, many of whom live in remote communities”.
In Ontario, “The National Panel members heard from many participants that First Nation education is considered a lifelong learning process and requires a holistic approach, and that when young people have a strong understanding of who they are and where they come from, they appear to be more engaged and successful. They also noted that leadership at all levels, including student mentoring, is a highly important factor in students’ success”.
The Panel’s activities while in Manitoba include:
Monday, October 17th, meetings with University of Manitoba, and the Office of the Treaty Commissioner;
Tuesday, October 18th, visit to communities of Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Mathias Colomb Cree Nation;
Wednesday, October 19th, Roundtable hosted by Fisher River Cree Nation with students, parents, elders, teachers, education administrators and community leaders; and,
Thursday, October 20th, meetings with Red River College and University of Winnipeg.
In Manitoba, there are 57 band-operated elementary and secondary level schools, in addition to 16 facilities that teach mature students. Approximately 17,500 students attend schools on reserve and the remaining 5,500 attend private or provincial schools off reserve. Fewer than one in two First Nation students in Manitoba graduates from high school, compared to about eight in ten non First Nation youth.
The Panel, a joint initiative of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, will deliver its report to the federal minister and National Chief by year end. For further information or to contribute to the discussions visit: www.firstnationeducation.ca.
In Northwestern Ontario, the Nishanawbe Aski Nation (NAN) opted out of the meetings. In August NAN Deputy Grand Chief Waboose said, “We are perfectly capable of speaking for ourselves and don’t require a National Panel with a limited mandate and minimal First Nation representation to do it for us.” said Waboose. “That is precisely what we intend to do through submission of our own report directly to the National Chief and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development”.