Aboriginal Headstart may be threatened by N.W.T. kindergarten plans
Some educators in the Northwest Territories are worried the Aboriginal Headstart program in the territory will be lost when junior kindergarten starts.
Aboriginal Headstart has offered programs for three- and four-year-olds in the N.W.T. for almost two decades. The program combines culture and language with literacy, health promotion and family support.
"Each program is built on what that community wants, what the community needs, what the community feels is important, that's what makes Headstart a success," says Reanna Erasmus, the program's manager.
But Erasmus says once junior kindergarten is implemented, small communities will not be able to sustain two early childhood programs.
"We don't like the idea that perhaps Minister Jackson [Lafferty], perhaps unintentionally, is killing Aboriginal Headstart," she says.
The Department of Education says the two programs are not rivals and that junior kindergarten will incorporate aboriginal values.
"All we are doing is providing more choices to parents," says deputy minister Gabriela Eggenhofer. "None of the parents need to access any of these programs if they don't choose to. But we think it's important that in 10 of these communities, people have no choice."
There is money to run Aboriginal Headstart for the next three years, but Erasmus says duplicating services doesn't make sense in the long run.