The annual graduation of students is an important rite.
Over the past few weeks, students across the Kivalliq have been winding down the school year. Whether it’s toddlers finishing preschool or college graduates moving on to join the workforce, the last two years have presented extraordinary challenges to youth at all levels of education.
Disruptions to in-person teaching caused by the pandemic have made it harder for children to connect with one another while making the relationship between teachers and students feel much less personal.
For starters, it’s worth offering gratitude to all the teachers who did their best to adapt to the combination of online learning and ever-changing schedules.
Baker Lake Mayor Richard Aksawnee, in a June 4 Facebook post, rightfully extended his thanks to the teachers and staff at Rachel Arngnammaktiq Elementary and Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School for their hard work to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.
“The last 15 months of the school calendar has been challenging during this current pandemic. But our teachers, staff and administrators have gone above and beyond to work at a high standard for our children in our community.”
Not to detract from the educators’ hardships, but the ones who have been most affected by the pandemic are the youth. This is especially true in communities like Arviat, which was under extended lockdown for several months. Even at the college level, where students are more mature and experienced, there were significant challenges.
When the pandemic first hit, many students were sent back to their home communities.
Instead of getting to congregate and bond with peers from other communities, those attending Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) faced constant disruptions.
As Matthew Ayres, vice-president of Nunavut Arctic College’s Kivalliq Campus, said following the joint graduation of 2020 and 2021 cohorts: “It shows great perseverance on the part of our students to be able to not only succeed but excel when facing a blended version of online and in-person delivery … due to public health measures.”
Despite the difficulties they faced, students like Gail Angootealuk and Nealson Mautaritnaak, who were both earned multiple awards, showed that it was possible to thrive.
Education is the gift that keeps on giving, which is why it is so important to persevere and celebrate these achievements. The fact that NAC is expanding its programming for the 2021-22 academic year is another reason to be optimistic.
Starting in fall 2021, Kivalliqmiut interested in the medical profession will get the chance to study in Rankin Inlet thanks to the college offering an inaugural licenced practical nurse diploma.
The college will also be offering bachelors of education in Naujaat and Whale Cove for the first time in an effort to train and recruit more Inuktitut-speaking teachers.
On their own, these initiatives may seem like a drop in the bucket but the bigger picture points to a region that is planning for a brighter future.
Combined with the resilience and perseverance of students, these investments in adult education will lay the foundation for a new generation of leaders in the territory.