Transforming the future of Six Nations education

Celebrate International Day of Education on January 24

Education is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as the action or process of teaching someone, especially in a school, college, or university. Education is a human right, but do all people have access to it? According to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the answer is no.

The United Nations General Assembly named Jan. 24 as the International Day of Education in hopes of raising awareness and in celebration of the role education plays in peace and development.

“Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind,” said the UNESCO website.

Today, 258 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40 per cent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school. “Their right to education is being violated and it is unacceptable,” said the site.

At last year’s global event, Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General, said business as usual is no longer an option when it comes to literacy and education.

“In these exceptional times, business as usual is no longer an option. If we are to transform the future, if we are to change course, we must rethink education. This means forging a new social contract for education, as called for by the UNESCO report on the Futures of Education, released last November,” said Azoulay. “We need to repair past injustices and orient the digital transformation around inclusion and equity. And we need education to fully contribute to sustainable development – for instance, by integrating environmental education in all curricula and by training teachers in this field.”

International Day of Education 2022 will be celebrated under the theme “Changing Course, Transforming Education.”

“Transforming the future requires an urgent rebalancing of our relationships with each other, with nature as well as with technology that permeates our lives, bearing breakthrough opportunities while raising serious concerns for equity, inclusion and democratic participation, said UNESCO’s site. “This year’s International Day of Education will be a platform to showcase the most important transformations that have to be nurtured to realize everyone’s fundamental right to education and build a more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful futures.

Organizers hope the theme will generate debate around how to strengthen education as a public endeavour and common good, how to steer the digital transformation, support teachers, safeguard the planet and unlock the potential in every person to contribute to collective well-being and our shared home.

Six Nations Education Story

Six Nations has an extensive education system on its territory including, elementary schools, learning centres, a multi-campus postsecondary organization, and more. Yet its current state is difficult to assess because of all the changes and shut downs implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years.

According to Six Nations Lifelong Learning, a task force established in 2018 to build upon previous activities in the area of education development to develop a recommended strategic education plan, the Six Nations education story is important as it forms the overarching narrative, which drives the current initiative for Six Nations to recover community control over education.

“The vision for the new education system will revitalize our languages and ground us in our cultural values while still preparing us for life now and into the future,” said the group’s website. “We will do this by exercising our right to establish and control our own educational system that provides education in our own languages and in a manner appropriate to our cultural methods of teaching and learning.”

The task force’s purpose is to develop recommendations on a world-class Education System that is based on language and culture for Six Nations of the Grand River.

“Our lifelong learning story is circular and connects the past, present and future. It begins with our Creation Story, which explains the way in which we view the world and all of creation,” said the group.

Six Nations Lifelong Learning said Six Nation’s creation story tells where we came from, grounds us in our values and gives us inherent responsibilities to carry into the future.

“Our creation story has guided our people from time immemorial. Storytelling and ceremonies, derived from the creation story have been, and continue to be, used to transfer traditional knowledge from generation to generation. Knowledge was passed on based on our local environmental conditions and included many of the sciences we find in contemporary educational settings. Our way of education intertwined knowledge about family, community, national and political relations with knowledge about our relations with the earth, water, sun, moon, sky, birds, animals, fish and plants. This is the holistic concept of education we are seeking to return to,” said Six Nations Lifelong Learning.

“Our traditional teachings were enhanced at a point in our history when chaos ensued. At this time, the Creator sent a messenger of peace to the five Haudenosaunee nations. The Peacemaker’s mission was to restore love, peace and harmony and encourage Ka’nikonhrí:io, a good mind – individual and collective, among the Haudenosaunee nations. The Peacemaker taught the Kaianerenkó:wa, the Great Law of Peace, which still unites the five nations as one mind, one body and one heart and encourages us to live the values of Ka´nikonhrí:io.”

Six Nations Lifelong Learning has undertaken several initiatives by obtaining direction from the community on recovering full control over education.

“We have always taken the position that we would recover full control of education, if adequate funding was secured from the federal government, to cover all programs and services required to support our students. Unfortunately, all attempts to recover control have broken down due to a lack of federal commitment to provide the necessary funding. The last attempt broke down in 2005,” said the group on their website.

Despite the inability to secure a nation-to-nation agreement on recovering full control over education with the federal government the efforts of the community have resulted in the establishment of two schools under community control. The Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Elementary and Secondary School offers immersion programming in Mohawk and Cayuga through a curriculum based on concepts as set forth in the Thanksgiving Address. The Everlasting Tree School delivers immersion programming in Mohawk rooted in Haudenosaunee culture and language inspired by Waldorf teaching methods.

“When we think of education today – we understand the importance of the teachings of the Kaianerenkó:wa as a pillar of lifelong learning to ensure unity, peace, strength and good mind now as well as always considering seven generations into the future,” said
Six Nations Lifelong Learning.

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