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Cross Country Checkup- Live from Membertou! 2:28

Listen to Full Episode 1:53:00

Four prime ministers have tried to improve education in Indigenous communities, and three of them failed. Is $2.6 billion in new federal money enough to combat high dropout rates and poor resources? The Mi’kmaw in Nova Scotia are having success with a new approach. Is it a model for the rest of Canada?

Duncan McCue

Host of Cross Country Checkup, Duncan McCue.

If you walk down the halls here at the Membertou School, it looks like any other elementary school in Canada. A jumble of tiny snow boots outside classroom doors and colourful kids artwork plastering the walls.

It’s a hopeful place.

Of course, that’s why parents send our kids off to school every day. They’re hoping education will give them a brighter future, and unlock that golden door to freedom.

But for too many Indigenous children in Canada, school isn’t about hope. It’s something to endure and survive.

Too many don’t make it. Graduation rates at schools on reserve are still below 50 per cent. The numbers are better for those who go to school off-reserve, but the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids in this country remains vast.

Efforts to reform First Nations education and fund it properly have become a political football, dividing politicians and chiefs for decades now. Justin Trudeau is the latest Prime Minister to offer a fix, committing $2.6 billion dollars over five years. But is it enough? And will funding alone do the trick?

The crisis in Indigenous education is so longstanding it seems to defy solutions. But bright spots exist, and we’re here at Membertou to hear those too. Almost 20 years ago, the Mi’kmaw communities of Nova Scotia took back control of education from the federal government. We’ll find out today if efforts to bring Mi’kmaw language, customs and history into the schools are paying off.