Indigenous educational institute marks growth in Munsee- Delaware

The Anishinabek Educational Institute is celebrating its 25th anniversary with increase in enrolment and new programs at its Munsee-Delaware campus.

Officials note higher enrolment, new programs and more campuses

The Anishinabek Educational Institute has been in the community for about two decades. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

The Anishinabek Educational Institute is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an increase in enrolment and new programs at its Munsee- Delaware campus.

The organization offers college-level programs that cater to indigenous students at two campuses in the province. One is in the community, located southwest of London, Ont. The other is in Nipissing, Ont.

Campus Site Coordinator John Jones said the growth speaks to the need for a cultural approach to education in the community.

John Jones is the Campus Site Coordinator in Munsee-Delaware. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

"We are adding to the educational attainment and knowledge and then those [students] can actively participate in helping to provide solutions in their own communities and organizations," he said.

The organization has existed in the community for about two decades. It offers six programs to about 50 students on Munsee-Delaware through a partnership with several colleges including St. Clair, Loyalist and Canadore. 

What makes it unique

Jones said the campus offers an approach that is difficult to find at a mainstream institution.

The classrooms are smaller, the lessons open with a smudge circle and instructors have the authority to rearrange the classroom to ensure students are comfortable. 

The campus is currently offering about six programs. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

"We don't want to make a distinction between instructor and student, whereas, I think in mainstream schooling, a lot of the time it's hierarchical in nature. They have the instructor at the front of the classroom and the students are in rows behind them," said Jones.

He said instructors will also encourage students to embrace their experiences and leverage them as strengths through classroom discussions.

"We try to infuse and use culture as much as we can. We try to have cultural supports and cultural activities," Jones said. 

That's what made Amanda George want to enrol at Anishinabek Educational Institute.

"It just felt really welcoming and like home compared to another college," said George, a first-year student in the Native Community Worker program.

George already has a diploma from another mainstream institution. The school allows her to connect with parts of her culture that she couldn't explore growing up, she said. 

Amanda George is a student in the Native Community Worker program. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

George's mother was a residential school survivor. "I felt like she kind of hid our traditional side. So, I want to learn it myself, that way I could teach it to my children and they could teach it to theirs.  That's why I'm here today," she said.

"I just want to help our community grow and prosper and just be better for our future generations. I just want to help give back," she said. 

How it's growing

Jones said the campus is offering two new programs this year: Personal Support Worker and Child Welfare Advocate.

He said he's noticed fuller classrooms and higher enrolment in the Native Community Worker program.

The school offers a cultural component to learning. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Jones isn't exactly sure why more students are registering; but he partially credits the growth to an increased in awareness.

"For a long time, word about us hasn't got out there, really," he said. "We send more people through the program. The general population at large will be more aware we are here and that we offer and deliver programming,"

In response, the organization has hired a new recruitment officer and student wellness position, he said. 

It's also looking to open two new campuses in Ontario by 2020.