Some Final Observations & Concerns:
The instructor feels that learners are motivated to enrol in the course out of a desire for greater self-sufficiency and autonomy. There is a sense of shame which may accompany low levels of literacy, and the course aims to strengthen learners sense of pride and self-esteem. Unlike courses at the local college, the course is free and learners receive a subsidy for child care. It also provides a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. "The motivation and desire to learn comes from the people themselves. Here we do not judge or test them."
It is a challenge shared with other programs to find Aboriginal tutors or volunteers. To involve others requires a capacity to plan in advance and have funding approved with some lead time, which has not been the experience of the instructor to date.
In Yellowknife, we encountered an interesting initiative which, while it does not fully meet our criteria for specifically adult literacy and upgrading initiatives for those who have been out of school for two years or more, is a good example of an Aboriginal organization taking preventive measures on behalf of Aboriginal youth. The Métis Nation of the Northwest Territories, with funding from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, introduced in February 1998 a tutoring service for 15 to 19 year-olds "to try to keep kids who may be having difficulty with certain subjects in school". While some older adults may benefit from the service, the objective of the program is to provide free private tutors in schools and after-school homework programs. So far the Métis Nation has approximately 90 young-adult learners working with tutors in seven of its 14 communities.
In larger communities, the Métis Nation has placed full-time tutoring support for high-risk youth. In smaller communities, private tutoring and after-school homework clubs are staffed on an hourly basis. Each community can assess and decide how best to make the program work for its teen-aged and young-adult population. In the words of the coordinator, Beatrice Daniels, "The focus is on academics, good study habits and getting in touch with their Aboriginal self. Métis students are very isolated caught between Aboriginal and White society. We are trying to help Métis students, through resource materials on Métis heritage and history, to take pride in and be aware of the importance of being Métis."
For more information, contact Beatrice Daniels at Métis Nation of the Northwest Territories, Box 1375, Yellowknife, NT X1A 2P1. Tel: (867) 873-3505, Fax: (867) 873-3395.