Mi’kmaq education authority wins kudos

Bennett signs $600M deal to continue work

Toronto Star

HALIFAX— Twenty years ago, only 30 per cent of Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq students were graduating from high school.

Today, that number stands at 90 per cent — the highest on reserve graduation rate in the country.

he federal government recognized the province’s Mi’kmaq community for leading the country on Indigenous education on Thursday by signing a new, 10-year education agreement worth $600 million.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the “amazing success” can be attributed to the 1997 creation of the Mi’kmaq education authority, known as Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey or simply MK.

“When we come together to celebrate the success of MK, we are actually setting an example for the country — and for the world,” Bennett said after signing the funding agreement with 12 jubilant Mi’kmaq leaders.

The authority supports band schools in delivering language immersion and other culturally relevant programs. It also protects and promotes the educational and language rights of the province’s Mi’kmaq people.

The high school graduation rate among First Nation students in Nova Scotia is considerably higher than the national average, which now stands at 36 per cent for students living on reserve.

Chief Leroy Denny, leader of the Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton and chairman of the MK, recalled how he decided to become a teacher when the authority was established. As the time, none of the province’s Mi’kmaq First Nations had their own schools. Students had to be bused to other communities. “It was a dream — a dream that if the Mi’kmaq could control our own education that we could reach levels never believed possible by Canadians,” he said.

“We know that our youth will grow into strong, proud Mi’kmaq when they are given the opportunity to learn in an environment that values the strengths of Mi’kmaq language and culture.”

Still, Denny said the MK has plenty of work to do.

“We want a100-per-cent graduation rate,” he said with a smile, adding that the focus of the authority is revitalizing the Mi’kmaq language.

As well, there are about 600 Indigenous students enrolled in the province’s post-secondary institutions.