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Nunavut parents share biggest concerns as new school year commences

Another school year is now underway in Nunavut, and some parents are expressing concerns about a number of issues facing their children.
More on-the-land education is something that Cambridge Bay parent Andre Otokiak would like to see reflected in the curriculum to “keep traditional values alive.” Photo courtesy of Shelly O’Gorman

Another school year is now underway in Nunavut, and some parents are expressing concerns about a number of issues facing their children.

For Avakana Allukpik, a mother of five from Kugluktuk, the biggest worry is bullying.

She said one of her sons has been bullied by some of his peers for years. Conversations with the parents of her son’s bullies have been fruitless, she added.

“It’s nonstop conflict,” she said.

When asked for her thoughts on a solution, Allukpik was quick to point to “unconditional love from parents” as the fix.

“The teachers are doing a great job,” she said. “It’s the home environment where it starts.

“Parents need to pay more attention to their kids. I just wish these parents could learn to just love their creations and not use them and abuse them,” said Allukpik.

In Cambridge Bay, father of five Andre Otokiak said his major apprehension for students in Nunavut surrounds the curriculum itself.

He would like to see a greater prevalence of on-the-land education for students of all ages to “keep traditional values alive” for future generations. He would also like to see training for trades worked into the curriculum.

“My concern as a parent would be a lack of communication with trades industries in our communities,” he said, suggesting students should get school credits for training in the mining industry.

Richard Bohlender, a father of four in Arctic Bay, is most concerned about school closures due to inclement weather.

He estimates his children missed up to 30 days of school last year, oftentimes when temperatures were milder than -40 C, and winds were slower than 50 kilometres per hour.

“I don’t want the school closed anymore,” he said. “Kids miss too many days now from those small conditions.

“Only reason for a school to close is if there’s no running water or some infrastructural damage, but not for weather-related [problems] since the school bus is running and there are only 200 houses altogether [in town],” said Bohlender.

In Iqaluit, Michael Fogan cited the price of school supplies as one of his chief concerns as a father of four.

He was able to acquire new backpacks and school supplies for his children at the local mosque’s annual back-to-school drive, but contends that prices of these items are too high and that availability is also a problem.

“You go to Northmart, you go to [Arctic] Ventures, a lot of times they’re overly expensive, or by the time we get there when we have child tax or something, they’re all gone,” he said “They have to cover freight costs, so you’re looking at a $35 backpack being $60 or $70 up here.”

Minister of Education Pamela Gross did not respond to multiple requests address these parents’ concerns in an interview.