(Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott in the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. Photo: Brittany Hobson)
Ten communities in Manitoba are celebrating the opening of a First Nations school system that comes with a unique curriculum and thousands of dollars more money per student.
“This important milestone that offers access to a more positive education environment for our students is reconciliation in action that will help them reach their dreams and aspirations of a brighter future,” said Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Chief Jim Bear.
Dozens were on hand for the grand opening at Sergeant Tommy Prince School in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation located 64 km northeast of Winnipeg.
The community is of one of the 10 First Nations participating in the new Manitoba First Nations School System.
The goal is to provide a First Nations-designed school system that recognizes and honours the identities of First Nations children, according to the organization in charge of the system – the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC).
Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott said the new system will serve as a model of education self-governance for other First Nation communities.
“It’s this kind of school system that will represent the change that the whole country needs in order to ensure that First Nations children get the highest possible delivery of educational services,” she said.
More than 1,700 students will benefit from the new curriculum, which includes language programming and the teaching of cultural ways.
The school system is the result of the Education Governance Agreement that was reached in December 2016 between the participating First Nations, the MFNERC and the federal government.
As part of the agreement the MFNERC saw more money per student from the government according to director of system development Nora Murdock.
She estimates the organization was receiving $8,000 per student before the agreement, or about $6,000 less than what the province pays in the mainstream.
Schools will now receive about $18,000 per student.
Murdock said this is a step toward putting the schools on par with the rest of the province.
“Out of that funding we were able to provide many more resources for the teachers to be able to teach the curriculum, to be able to be innovative in what they teach, and also we were able to increase teacher’s salaries to make them more comparable to what teachers would make in the provincial school division.”
(Student Tanya Kent says the addition of a library, laptops and school supplies will help.)
Some upgrades within the school began before the grand opening including the first library at Sergeant Tommy Prince School. This is something that is not lost on students attending the school.
“Not having a library was really hard because if we wanted to read a book we would just have to get whatever was there and it was books from years and years previous so we would be readings books with pages missing,” said 14-year-old Tanya Kent.
In addition to a library, Kent said she is excited to use the new laptops and school supplies the school will be getting.
For her it’s a step in the right direction.
“I just hope I make it,” said Kent.
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