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Gjoa Haven finds ways to improve school attendance

Teachers and education board members in Gjoa Haven have been looking for ways to improve attendance, and this year they seem to have found a solution that is taking off.

Students who attended school 80 to 89 per cent of the time at Qiqirtaq Ilihakvik were recognized at a recent ceremony. Front row, from left, Joseph Gee, Keagan Qitsualik, Alex Nimiqtaqtuq, Palla Kogvik, Rayan Aglukkaq and Alvin Oogak. Back row, from left, Robert Anakanerk, Christopher Qayutinnuaq, Eva Kaloon, Shandi Anaittuq, Jade Kamookak, Alaira Sallerina and Michael Mariq. photo courtesy of Kim Rowley/Qiqirtaq Ilihakvik

As an incentive through a promotion with airline Canadian North, the top attending students at each of Qiqirtaq Ilihakvik and at Quqshuun Ilihakvik, along with one parent each, will have a chance to win one of two pairs of plane tickets for a trip to Edmonton.

The tickets will be awarded at the end of the school year and used during the summer, said Trina Sallerina, principal at Qiqirtaq, which has students from Grades 7 to 12.

In addition, binders, book bags, pencils and other supplies are handed out during monthly attendance assemblies. Those who achieve perfect attendance each month have their names go into a draw, along with their parents' names, for prize draws featuring fox furs, tea kettles and camping bags.

"It's a community effort. Parents have worked really hard to wake their kids up and send them to school... the community seems to be very receptive and happy that this is happening," Sallerina said. "The DEA (district education authority) has been creative and innovative in their ways of supporting attendance... I have students who have never been to school who have 100 per cent attendance now, or 90 to 100 per cent. For me, that's a huge accomplishment as a teacher."

In her first year as principal after 23 years of teaching in Gjoa Haven, Sallerina said she couldn't provide attendance figures but she said she's seeing more faces in school based on her experience.

"You know there's more people because you're giving out more pencils, you're serving more food," she said. "What I can tell you is that, in the past, (attendance figures) have been much lower."

Monthly attendance at Qiqirtak Ilihakvik has ranged between 55 per cent and 68 per cent this year, according to the Department of Education. In 2017-18, attendance averaged 51.5 per cent for year year.

Between 2001 and 2014, the school attendance rate Nunavut-wide varied between 70.3 per cent and 74.5 per cent, according to Department of Education data attained through the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics.

Raymond Quqshuun Sr., chair of the Gjoa Haven DEA, said he and his board are "really happy" about the improving attendance at the elementary school and the high school.

"We're hoping that it's going to continue," he said. "It's real exciting for us and for the students... We want our students to finish school and go on to college or university or the workforce in the future.

"That's what it's all about."

These students were in class 90 to 100 per cent of the time at Qiqirtaq Ilihakvik. In addition to receiving certificates, they are improving their odds of winning a flight south as a reward for their regular attendance at school. Front row, from left, Melissa Arqviq and Isaiah Palongayak. Second row, from left, Jimmy Rasch, Malachai Kurok, Serge Tucktoo, Faith Palongayak, Skylar Poodlat, Rodney Konana and Sebastian Poodlat. Third row, from left, Percida Kurok, Paul Iquallaq, Keira Qitsualik, Lorenza Kamimmalik, Tannis Eleehetook, Candace Eleehetook, Todd Porter, Phillip Nimiqtaqtuq, Zachary Puqiqnak and Johnny Tucktoo. Back row, from left, Anikan Takkiquq, Darcy Komangat, Waylon Nahalolik, Kenneth Kamimmalik, Taylor Eleehetook, Nathanial Anaittuq, Cody Kogvik and Ikey Kogvik. photo courtesy of Kim Rowley/Qiqirtaq Ilihakvik