Soon First Nations students in Manitoba won’t have to leave their community to attend post-secondary school.
In partnership with the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council (IRTC), which represents six First Nations in Manitoba, $16.1 million is being committed to the University of Manitoba through the Mastercard Foundation’s EleV program, and will help build learning hubs in First Nations communities.
“You know a lot of times our people are put on the back burner because there’s not enough post-secondary dollars to go around but here having the hub now you know there’s more people that can further their education because I know there’s a lot of people out there who have the potential to succeed now with this hub. You have the tools now,” said Chief Cornell McLean of Lake Manitoba First Nation.
McLean is also the chair of the IRTC.
“I think we have the people that have the capabilities you know to obtain their teaching degrees and every other degree. We want to be a part of society.”
Students will have access to better internet, laptops and books to be able to complete their post-secondary education.
“We have gaps and barriers within the system that really are beyond the capacity of an individual to overcome. And so, partnerships like this one allow all of the relevant people to come together and say hey, let’s take a look at changing the system to support the students, the people that we’re meant to serve and that’s why this partnership is so important,” said Catherine Cook, vice-president Indigenous at the U of M.
Shelby Sinclair is a U of M law student from Pinaymootang First Nation and while she lives in Winnipeg, she said having these hubs will make it easier for other students.
“I thought it would be good opportunities for more Indigenous people in the First Nations communities who want to pursue post-secondary but don’t have the option of moving to Winnipeg. It’ll also provide more resources because like there’s a lot of overcrowding in a lot of First Nations homes. So, like they need places to study and they need places too, they need places to do their work, to do their classes and it’ll just create more opportunities and make people more inclined to want to pursue post-secondary,” Sinclair said.
Cook is also Métis and said universities should support the communities they serve.
“University is not just a post-secondary education deliverer, it really needs to be there to support the community, to support the ability for students to move from high school into university, to move from university out into employment,” she said.
“We are that transitional bridge between those worlds and it’s our goal, it’s our hope that we can really build on that and provide the kind of structure and system that really does support our Indigenous students and their ability to achieve success in that way.”
Pinaymootang First Nation will be the first community in a series of hubs to be developed with Indigenous communities across Manitoba with more hubs coming over the next few years.
“This is a three-year project so what we’re trying to do, what we’re going to do is we’re going to have a hub in every community. So, every First Nation will have their own. Like I say we want to see our people succeed so that at least hey we’re not a burden,” said McLean.
“I think it’s so important that our Indigenous communities know that we are here to support them in whatever they need to support their students in post-secondary education. And we can only do that through a really strong partnership with communities, with the university and with our funders so we’re really excited about the opportunities for our communities and our Indigenous students,” Cook said.
The project is not limited to just universities and will be open to any student wanting to learn from any post-secondary school within Manitoba including trades and technology.
“This new partnership is well aligned with the Foundation’s EleV program, which aims to support innovative, Indigenous-led approaches to education and employment. The creation of learning hubs in remote and rural Indigenous communities, for example, will take learning to where Indigenous students live and will demonstrate the positive impact of in-community program delivery,” said Jennifer Brennan, head of Canada Programs for the Mastercard Foundation in a statement.