YELLOWKNIFE (October 8, 2010) - The first in a series of regional Minister’s meetings on Aboriginal Student Achievement (ASA) met with success in Norman Wells last week. Over the course of three days, Sahtu Aboriginal governments and community representatives, alongside District Education Council (DEC) educators and school principals from each community discussed how to improve Aboriginal students’ academic success with senior staff from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE).
The common theme supported at the meetings was building connections within each community to help students. “The level of engagement from participants was outstanding. We couldn’t have asked for more,” says ECE Minister Jackson Lafferty. “People came ready to really talk about challenges they face in their communities and to focus on developing solutions and a collaborative approach.”
Sahtu Dene Council Grand Chief, Frank Andrew and the Sahtu District Education Council (SDEC) Chair Beverly Masuzumi co-chaired the meeting with Minister Lafferty.
“The symposium was informative and I gained a better understanding of the education system,” says Grand Chief Frank Andrew. “The symposium was well organized and well attended with Aboriginal leaders, DEA members, and school principals, which was a first. Discussions on languages were interesting and I feel that this is very important within the education system. I want to recommend more education symposiums be held on a yearly basis.”
“It went great and everyone who took part had a positive outlook,” says Beverly Masuzumi. “The leadership in the Sahtu is aware of our children’s issues and because of this, we all came together to help find solutions. I believe this is a step in the right direction for all involved.”
Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya also attended much of the meeting. "Education is so important for the future of the NWT and all of its citizens that it is great when so many stakeholders can come together to work through some of the tougher issues facing us in this area," he stated.
There was much discussion on early childhood development and how important it is to incorporate tradition, culture, and language into school courses and programs. Key areas addressed at the regional meetings were the priorities identified earlier by the ASA Working Group, which was comprised of various territorial partners. Established in April 2009, the Working Group was instrumental in directing the work of the ASA Initiative.
On the third day of meetings, Ethel Blondin Andrew, Chair of Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated (SSI) and Terry Fortin, Education Consultant, set an inspirational tone for a community forum. Aboriginal government leaders and educators from the same communities worked in groups to discuss their community’s education issues and what they would do to resolve those issues when they return home. The community groups made a commitment to start working towards short and long term goals in their respective communities.
“The Sahtu Aboriginal Student Achievement conference was an excellent start,” says Ethel Blondin Andrew, Chair of SSI. “The leadership of the Sahtu did not stand back. They were hands on in the discussion of each of the four ASA priorities. To do better on all the issues raised will take a hands on and very well planned approach by the entire community.”
The meetings also included a community cultural evening with a feast and drum dance featuring the Tulita drummers.
The feedback and outcomes from the regional Minister’s meetings and community forums will help direct ECE’s Aboriginal Student Achievement Education Plan.
Future regional Minister’s meetings include:
- Tlicho (Behchoko) November 17 to 19, 2010
- Dehcho (Fort Simpson) December 7 to 9, 2010
- Akaitcho (Yellowknife) January 18 to 20, 2011
- South Slave (Hay River) April 5 to 7, 2011
- Beaufort Delta (Inuvik) April 12 to 14, 2011
For more information on the regional Minister’s meetings, please contact:
Manager, Public Affairs
Education, Culture and Employment
Tel: (867) 920-6222
Public Affairs Officer
Education, Culture and Employment
Tel: (867) 920-3059