NORTEP-NORPAC staff and students face uncertainty
- Linda Mikolayenko | October 20, 2016
Uncertainty regarding the future of the Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP) and the Northern Professional Access College (NORPAC) is causing anxiety for both students and staff.
In July, the provincial government advised the NORTEP-NORPAC Board of Governors that its funding would be discontinued as of July 31, 2017 and redirected to another post-secondary institution. This has left the current 154 students and 25 staff wondering what comes next.
“The faculty have noticed that everybody is worried,” said NORTEP-NORPAC acting president, Jennifer Malmsten. “Because of the uncertainty, they don’t know what the future holds, and that’s hard to handle.”
In late September, representatives from the Ministry of Advanced Education and NORTEP met to determine the next steps.
“We agreed that NORTEP would facilitate the process of determining who our partner will be,” said Malmsten. “We will make a recommendation to the Minister of Advanced Education by January 31, and then it is her prerogative to accept or reject the recommendation.”
Rielle Desjarlais is one of several students who met with the Honourable Bronwyn Eyre, Minister of Advanced Education, in mid-September to convey why NORTEP-NORPAC is “important and essential to the North.”
The third-year NORPAC student and vice-president of the student association says, “This decision has put a stress on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of the students.”
Desjarlais has initiated a “Go Fund Me” campaign to engage the public’s support and allow students to take their message to Regina later in the fall, and try to stop the redirection of funding.
“It has been a proven product for 40 years,” says Desjarlais.
To date, over 600 Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Arts, and Master of Education degrees have been awarded, and students have been able to take courses leading to other professional programs, as well.
Just over a year ago, the Government of Saskatchewan signed a five-year agreement to support the operation of NORTEP-NORPAC, but now it is seeking administrative savings, says Malmsten. She acknowledges that establishing a new structure for the delivery of university education in the north is not an easy process.
“We want our model carried on, because it has been successful,” says Malmsten. Indeed, she says the response to a call for success stories has been overwhelming.
Part of the uniqueness of the current program has been the emphasis on incorporating an Indigenous perspective in the studies. For example, the Indigenous Studies 270: Literature of Indigenous North America course is a requirement for both of the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees and NORTEP-NORPAC is the only educational institution that offers it in Northern Saskatchewan. There are currently 30 students registered in this class.
Among NORTEP-NORPAC’s strengths, Malmstren includes small class sizes, face-to-face instruction, tutoring, financial assistance and the “innumerable supports that we offer.”
“This is a northern issue,” says Malmsten. “If NORTEP is lost, then the North will suffer.”