First Nations culture at Okanagan College

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by
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First Nations culture and education was front and Centre at Okanagan College during the 7th Annual Youth Exhibition Pow Wow.

“As one student speaker put it today we often know more about cultures and people around the world than we do about the ones we live and share our communities with,” says Okanagan College President, Jim Hamilton.

Hamilton says the number of aboriginal students enrolled at Okanagan College has gone from just over 4 hundred a decade ago to nearly 11 hundred now. Hamilton credits the college’s aboriginal services team.

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‘Part of our work is to get out into the community and go to local schools, career fairs and to visit different bands,” says Aboriginal Services Coordinator, Anthony Isaac.

Across the country the number of Aboriginal Students seeking a post secondary education has steadily increased. Advocates say there is still more work to be done.

The most recent Statistics Canada numbers show just half of aboriginal adults, 48.8 per cent, have a post seconday education. Just under 10 per cent have a bachelor’s degree, masters or doctorate.

Among Non-Aboriginal learners, 65 per cent have a post secondary designation. 26 and a half percent have achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Chelsea Grisch, chair of the college’s student union says there are still hurdles first nations students must overcome.

She points to a disproportionate number of aboriginals in adult learning and continuing education courses. She says those classes, which are the stepping stone to higher education, have hit a funding snag.

“The funding was actually pulled from that program by the BC Liberals and basically what that means is courses that used to be free are now charged for, and the prices rival the tuition for regular post secondary courses,” says Grisch.

So far, Okanagan College has avoided increasing student fees for upgrading programs. Grisch is hopeful the province will reverse this decision, so more Aboriginal students can earn a degree.

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