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Wpg Free Press: Progress should be feted, but vigilance required

May 10, 2017 — 

The Winnipeg Free Press ran an editorial that began

It was with a mixture of pride and joy that Manitobans recently learned more indigenous students are graduating from post-secondary institutions in this province than ever before.

The University of Manitoba annual Traditional Graduation Powwow, held each year to celebrate the achievements of indigenous graduates, welcomed 430 students this year, one of the highest totals ever. The story was very much the same at Red River College’s graduation powwow, where another 120 indigenous graduates were honoured. Over at the University of Winnipeg, where every student is mandated to take an indigenous studies course, the number of students that self-identify as indigenous is growing exponentially.

This is incredibly good news. Higher education is key to freeing indigenous people from a cycle of poverty and familial dysfunction. However, we know by now that there is no such thing as a permanent solution to a big social problem.

Progress on one front must be weighed against regression on other fronts. And just as there is evidence of progress in graduating indigenous students from university and college, so too there are signs of slippage in other parts of the education continuum.

The same week as we witnessed the impressive turnout at graduation powwows, the alarm was raised at a North End Winnipeg high school about extremely high student absentee rates….

The graduation powwows at Manitoba post-secondary schools are proof that we are making progress. However, the situation at St. John’s High School reminds us that the only true solution to a profound social problem is constant vigilance.

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