STF, FSIN call for investment in light of falling First Nations, Métis grad rates
Although it has been an oft-repeated goal of the Ministry of Education to increase First Nations and Métis graduation rates to 65 percent by 2020, the reality is that based on the most recent numbers, it is actually trending downwards.
Leaders of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation recently addressed the media in a united call for an immediate investment by the government in order to address this troubling trend.
“We have constantly encouraged for investment in the education sector in Saskatchewan, but it’s not happening and so we’re looking at this as a wake-up call. This should be a no-brainer,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron stated.
Cameron cited recent data from Saskatchewan Education showed the 2010 three-year graduation rate for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students dropped from 44.5 percent to 43.4 percent after having experienced modest gains previously. The five-year graduation rates showed a minimal increase from 59.4 percent to 61 percent.
According to STF President Patrick Maze, these numbers are unacceptable when compared to the overall graduation rates of approximately 80 percent.
“Government has committed to improving graduation rates for Indigenous students, but the plan isn’t working. It’s time to do more.
“When you consider the numbers have actually decreased, that’s not acceptable and it requires a considerable investment from both the provincial and federal government. It’s not just an education issue, it’s a societal issue and we need to do better,” Maze indicated.
Cameron agreed, stating that he is looking for investment rather than incarceration for First Nations and Métis youth. “We want to work together and it will have a positive impact for everyone. We must fix these issues now.
“We don’t want to hear words. We want to see something in writing that is going to be for the benefit of everyone. We are going to hold government to task because our youth need to be able to see a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel, and education is that light,” he said.
FSIN 2nd Vice-Chief David Pratt, a former teacher himself, said First Nations students continue to face barriers and obstacles that prevent them from reaching their full potential in school.
“Government has to step up to the plate and ensure the proper support systems are in place to significantly increase First Nations graduation rates. We must work together on finding solutions for better educational outcomes and also encourage our youth to continue their education into post-secondary and the trades.”
Pratt said despite past promises by both levels of government to address the issues, “what we are seeing on the ground is that there has been very little funding increase at the grassroots level. We need to stop looking at education as an expense, but rather as an investment in our children’s future.”
Cameron said it’s time to ponder options that might be outside the box. He emphasized the importance of the language and culture component, which he said will help students gain a sense of identity and build their self-esteem so that they want to succeed.
Reflecting on his time with the education portfolio while serving as Vice-Chief, Cameron said “I didn’t think it would take this long for something to happen. I thought we would start to see positive results. We can’t continue to not do anything. We need to take this seriously and perhaps have students to be more involved in terms of what works and what doesn’t work.”