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Monday, March 4, 2013

NWT, Nunavut to launch mandatory classes on residential schools


NWT, Nunavut to launch mandatory classes on residential schools

Counsellors and help lines are ready as northern schools prepare for mandatory classes on residential schools in the very communities where their impact may have been the worst.

Teachers from across Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are in Yellowknife this week to learn how to deliver the new course in Grade 10 classrooms for the first time later this month.

The program takes 25 classroom hours – about one-fifth of the Grade 10 Northern Studies class – and every high school graduate, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, is to pass through it.

Mental health counsellors, both locally and through a 1-800 number, will be available for anyone troubled by what arises in class. That will include teachers, about 85 per cent of whom come from the south and may have no idea of the schools' legacy.

The course's content has been provided by the Legacy of Hope Foundation, a group funded through money that came with the federal government's apology for residential schools. Marie Wilson, head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that gathered stories and information on the schools from coast to coast, said the fact the unit is mandatory makes an important point.

Ms. Stewart said the curriculum was well received when it was tested in eight communities last year. "The activities seemed to work. [The students] will listen. The teachers' feedback to us was: 'We've had conversations that we've never had anything approaching – especially from some kids we never hear from.' "

The University of Victoria is conducting a study of the program's first year in an attempt to measure its results.