An A+ For Mi’kmaq Education

High school graduation rates among Mi’kmaq students in Nova Scotia peaked at 87.7 per cent in 2012-13. Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey released its annual report at the annual general assembly in Dartmouth on October 4.

The report highlights MK’s work during the 2012-13 academic year and focuses on its core areas of activity: elementary and secondary education, post- secondary education, performance measurement, the Atlantic Canada First Nation Help Desk; Mi’kmaq language, special education; sports, health and wellness; and the First Nation School Success Program.

More than 500 Mi’kmaq students were enrolled in post-secondary education, up 25 per cent since 2011-12. Eighty-four students successfully graduated from post-secondary institutions. Literacy, numeracy, school attendance and student retention rates in elementary and secondary schools continued to rise. 

MK executive director Eleanor Bernard believes they have a self-governance model of education that works, and others are noticing.

“We’ve celebrated many years of Mi’kmaq education success in Nova Scotia,” Bernard said. “While we always look to improve, it’s important that we pause, reflect and appreciate the long way we’ve come.”

Efforts to maintain and revitalize the Mi’kmaq language remained strong in 2012-13 through the introduction of Mi’kmaq language classes in communities, the integration of Mi’kmaq language web-based courses in MK high school curriculum, and a pilot certification course for Mi’kmaq language speakers to teach non- speakers.

This past June, a state-of-the-art and culturally relevant school opened in Wagmatcook with National Chief Shawn Atleo attending the opening ceremonies. Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey has undertaken an initiative involving a system that monitors strategies and goals for schools and creates educational support statistics such as graduation, attendance and retention rates. Atlantic Canada’s First Nation Help Desk continued to provide technology-related resources to First Nation schools in Atlantic Canada, including fibre optics connectivity, safe Internet feeds, videoconferencing networks, and youth employment opportunities.

Construction has begun on a Grade P-6 school in Membertou and a gymnasium in Eskasoni. In the coming year, construction will begin on an education and cultural centre in Potlotek, and the first class of the Mi’kmaq language immersion program will graduate from Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni.

MK chair Chief Leroy Denny said the organization and its communities see Mi’kmaq student success as an expectation, not a hope.

“It’s our passion, leadership and partnership that allows us to explore new opportunities for students, and re-visit and enhance existing operations and programs,” Denny said.