Kuujjuaq parents want non-Inuit teachers included on school trip
“Sharing the culture with others is also an excellent way to preserve it"
Parents of students at Kuujjuaq’s Jaanimmarik high school say they’re upset with a decision by Nunavik’s Kativik School Board to exclude non-Inuit teachers from the school’s upcoming camping trip.
The annual spring camping trip has for many years involved teachers and secondary students travelling by snowmobile onto the land for a few days.
But this year, the school board has told non-Inuit teachers at Jaanimmarik that they won’t participate in this year’s excursion and that students will only travel with Inuit teachers and guides.
And that’s raised the ire of many parents, Inuit and Qallunaat alike.
A number of parents have written letters to the school administration asking for clarification.
Nathalie Boulanger, whose daughter is a Secondary 4 student at Jaanimmarik, said the annual trip has always served as a strong bonding experience between students and teachers.
“Sharing the culture with others is also an excellent way to preserve it,” she wrote in a March 28 letter addressed to the school administration. “[It] helps to break down taboos and cultural barriers, to open up to one another and create a better understanding and respect between cultures.”
The president of Kuujjuaq’s education committee, who declined to be interviewed, has also written to school board officials, asking them to reverse their decision and allow the non-Inuit teachers to take part in the trip.
In the meantime, the camping trip has been postponed, while the school administration clarifies the situation with parents.
The school board said that as far as both budget and content are concerned, the camping trip is an extension of the culture classes taught as part of the school board’s curriculum.
And because those classes are linked to the instruction of Inuit culture and language, “the guidelines applied by the KSB do not foresee the inclusion of non-Inuit teachers,” the KSB wrote in a statement emailed to Nunatsiaq News.
“The purpose of these funds (which have been approved by the Council of Commissioners) is to support a powerful first language cultural experience for our students,” the email said.
The KSB clarified that all students are invited to take part in cultural excursions — not just Inuit students.
The school board acknowledged that there may be some confusion around its directive on field trips and excursions. Article 4.3 of that directive specifies that the homeroom teacher or specialist may accompany students on a trip with the approval of the school administration.
But the KSB said that, as a matter of practice, article 4.3 has not been applied to outdoor excursions funded under the culture class excursion budget.
“Rather, the school board has sought to ensure that the culture class excursions should be led by the school’s culture teacher(s), with the support of hired Inuit guides,” the KSB said.
The KSB noted that it supports the inclusion of all teachers in activities and excursions that fall outside of the culture class budget.
“We are confident that the issue will be resolved over the upcoming weeks, in the best interest of parents, students and members of the Kuujjuaq community,” the KSB said.