'We're going to change the face of First Nations education': First of its kind school system opens in Manitoba
Published Wednesday, October 11, 2017 5:16PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, October 11, 2017 5:58PM CST
Singing, dancing, and music was all part of the celebration marking the grand opening of the Manitoba First Nations School System.
It's the first of its kind in Canada.
"I'm very optimistic that we're going to change the face of First Nations education," said Lorne Keeper, executive director of Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre.
Tanya Kent is a grade eight student at Sergeant Tommy Prince School in Brokenhead First Nation.
“We were kind of dusted under the rug for so long, and it’s like, we’re finally getting out there,” said Kent.
Her school is now opening its own library and getting textbooks, laptops and iPads.
Approximately 1,700 students from ten First Nations in Manitoba are part of the new system.
The goal is to offer a curriculum that recognizes and incorporates the identities of First Nations children, like their languages, histories and cultures.
“You have to understand and appreciate who you are and where you come from in order to best plan for the future,” said Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.
The schools involved are receiving more funding from the federal government than before.
Director of system development Nora Murdock said First Nations schools used to get roughly $8,000 per student. Now, it’s around $18,000.
“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,” said Murdock.
Teachers’ salaries are also increasing, and will be more on par with provincial salaries. Murdock said this will help to retain and attract teachers.
“Stability in teaching staff goes a long way in improving academic achievement and positive outcomes for our students,” Murdock added.
Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott said one of the federal government’s responsibilities on First Nations is education.
“What this allows is to be able to put those resources together to be able to provide the appropriate additional resources for the administration of a school system,” said Philpott.
Student Tanya Kent is happy to see First Nations education becoming a priority.
“Students were really behind in reading and math because we didn’t have the textbooks, and just overall books to help,” said Kent. “And now, I can see even my little brother really advancing in that, and it’s really awesome.”
The Manitoba First Nations School System is the result of the Education Governance Agreement, reached last December as part of the federal government’s commitment to reconciliation.