If what I wrote about on June 26th is true and transgenerational trauma happens whenever horrific events of one generation impact future generations, wouldn’t it make sense that First Nations, Métis and Inuit of this country should have a profound distrust for the education system that turned their ancestors into strangers in their own families? And if “perpetrators” can pass guilt and shame to their descendents, wouldn’t it make sense that the authorities in this country would unconsciously mould an education system that is inequitable to the Aboriginal members of our Canadian family?
I have heard one aboriginal leader say that residential school gave him a ticket to a better life. It provided the only means he had of acquiring a good education. What was true for him was not true for many of Canada’s past and current Aboriginal students.
A few quick facts:
-33% of on-reserve high school students graduate each year. In contrast, the eastern Ontario school board where I teach is aiming for a 90% graduation rate.
-The federal government which is solely responsible for financing aboriginal education, only funds aboriginal students two-thirds of the average funding per student that the provinces provide to other schools.
-19% percent of on-reserve schools in Alberta and Saskatchewan have irregular power and water – some reserves have no school at all.
-And this is the big opportunity for the future of Canada: 28% of the Aboriginal population is under the age of 14. Canada’s Aboriginal population, increased by 20.1% from 2006 to 2011, while the non-Aboriginal population increased by 5.2% in the same period. It behoves all of us to give our Aboriginal children every opportunity available to every other child.
Turning Things Around on Remote Reserves
Within the next few days I expect my son will be marking the end of the school year with the grand burning of a semester’s worth of notes. (As a teacher it makes me cringe. As a former child it makes me infinitely happy!) His burning will be happening at the very time that over 4,000 aboriginal children, mostly on fly-in reserves, will begin oiling their mental cogs with six weeks of fun learning activities led by counsellors in The Lieutenant Governor’s Aboriginal Summer Literacy Camps.
Taka Hoy and Katie Armstrong, both university students and counsellors with the program, spoke at the launch of Emma Field, Book Three last fall. The pictures they showed of children laughing, baking and sporting “pig snout” masks as they read one of Robert Munsch’s books were pictures of children experiencing the full joy of learning!
The distance between literacy (and joy!) and mental health, and literacy (and joy!) and school success is a short one. Says David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, “Where the literacy camps have been in operation, both the dropout rates and the suicide rate is much lower.”
Rebuilding the trust in Aboriginal children and throwing open the doors to a brighter future –I’m all over it!
All funding for these camps is raised by the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and held in trust by Frontier College : www.frontiercollege.ca