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Friends, at any level, education is an uphill climb.

But when you’re Indigenous the playing field is not even close to being in on an even keel.

The Auditor General of Canada did a report on our Northern education system, some months back, and their findings were abysmal, to say the least.

From what I recall, our Indigenous students are graduating at less than 50 per cent, compared to like 60-70 for the non-Indigenous.

I have been working, volunteering, with the Youth at home, summers, in Radilih Koe, Fort Good Hope for well over a decade now.

There is a familiar pattern you notice, right from the start. What we call a high school diploma is not that at all. Rather, it is a diploma to upgrade.

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The system
Because of the way the system works a so-called graduate will apply to go to a southern institute of higher learning, only to find out their marks are not up to par. For most places you need at least a 60 per cent average, just to get in and many higher!

They then have no choice but to make a second attempt, usually at Aurora College, or online, if they can manage it.
With the initial disappointment of not making the grade and trying to survive the high cost of living in a smaller place, many simply drop out,

The high crime rate all too familiar to the North forces the young student to commit some kind of mischief, often leading to jail.

Since beginning with my own examples for our young people to just stay in school, going back to 2007, I’ve found that there really is nothing wrong with them.

These are not criminals.

They are intelligent and well-meaning, hoping against hope to somehow make it in this hard world.

What is most striking about this situation in the North is that individual Band Councils, like in the South, do not get education funding for their members from the federal government.

Treaty right
A treaty right for a young Indigenous student for education is in fact available to anyone who is a citizen of the NWT, after only a short stay.

As with most government agencies these funds are limited.

Not only am I determined to set an example for our youth to just stay in school, but to stay out of jail.

This, unfortunately, is the reality of northern education.

Mahsi, thank you.

Antoine Mountain

Antoine Mountain is a Dene artist and writer originally from Radilih Koe/Fort Good Hope. He can be reached at www.mountainarts.com.

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