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SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) Colleges of Education and Nursing have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Onion Lake Cree Nation to create additional opportunities for potential post-secondary students to learn where they live.
The agreement gives Onion Lake students the option of entering into the fields of either education or nursing, or completing prerequisites for other health sciences in Onion Lake through the support of the already established Indian Education Teaching Program (ITEP), run by the College of Education.
“The College of Education respects and honours the work and goals of our First Nation communities and is committed to working at meeting student needs both on and off campus,” said Michelle Prytula, dean of the College of Education.
The College of Education has a long history of successful partnerships with First Nation communities through its ITEP program, which has been around for more than 40 years.
“The mandate of ITEP is to ensure Indian control of Indian Education and that is the guiding principle behind our program,” said Chris Scribe, co-ordinator of ITEP and First Nations, Métis and Inuit Programming in the College of Education. “Producing First Nation teachers to teach First Nation children in a way that promotes culture, language and traditions is essential to the success of First Nation children in our schools.”
Lorna Butler, dean of the College of Nursing, said that through this new agreement, Onion Lake Cree Nation students will have the advantage of learning together with others in the College of Education and ITEP. Once they complete their first year at Onion Lake, they can then apply to the College of Nursing to complete years two through four at one of our sites.
“The College of Nursing has been responsive to the needs of rural and remote communities by offering students the opportunity to obtain a nursing degree without leaving their home communities,” said Butler. “‘Learn Where You Live’ is a model that helps build a local, skilled workforce to provide better access to health. The College of Nursing is proud to be part of this collaboration.”
“Having sufficient numbers of qualified, local Aboriginal nurses to provide health care is key to improving Aboriginal quality of life and well-being,” said Heather Exner-Pirot, strategist for outreach and Indigenous engagement, College of Nursing. “This partnership allows the college to extend the opportunity to make nursing education more responsive and accessible to the people of Onion Lake.”
Onion Lake Cree Nation’s strategic plan and vision is for people to assume productive and responsible roles in society, including acquiring leadership roles within its education system.