Starting school on the right foot: Muslim community donates supplies to Ndilo, Detah students

Students in Ndilo and Detah will be starting the new school year Tuesday with fresh supplies thanks to $10K donation from the Yellowknife Islamic Centre.

The Yellowknife Islamic Centre has donated $10K worth of backpacks filled with school supplies

Islamic Centre of Yellowknife chair Nazim Awan, left, donated $10,000 worth of school supplies to students in Ndilo and Detah. Here, he and Ndilo Chief Ernest Betsina, second left, YK1 superintendent Metro Huculak and K'alime Dene School principal Meagan Wowk show off some of the donated items - including graphing calculators needed by high school science students that cost more than $100 apiece. (Laura Busch/CBC)

The cost of heading back to school can pile up. Basic classroom supplies can run more than $100 per student, and that's before the new clothes, bags and everything else needed to start the year off right. 

In Yellowknife, Catholic school board students started last Thursday, while other schools prepare to open on Tuesday.

Ritah Lunkuse was out shopping for some last-minute items on Wednesday.  "It's very expensive, I usually spend a few months saving, so that I can be in a position to shop for all the kids — I have three in total. Yeah, so it's very expensive for me," she said. 

Giving Indigenous students a boost

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring communities of Ndilo and Detah, the Yellowknife Islamic community has donated more than 150 backpacks filled with school supplies to help give Indigenous students a boost. 

"Some of our families are low income … so every little bit that we can help these families is a welcome thing," said Ndilo Chief Ernest Betsina, who accepted the school supplies at K'alemi Dene School last Wednesday.

"The students will benefit directly because they will have new school supplies."

Betsina said he hopes this gives students a good head start to the school year.

K'alime Dene School educational assistant Noel Hernandez helps unload school bags and supplies donated by the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife last Wednesday. (Laura Busch/CBC)

The Islamic Relief Canada and the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife approached the chiefs of the Yellowknives Dene First Nations (YKDFN) one month ago about the donation.

Nazim Awan is the chair of the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife. 

He said this initiative started after an Islamic Relief Canada board member visited Yellowknife and inquired about what they could do to give back to the community.

Awan said he immediately thought it would be great to be able to help Indigenous students better their education. They arranged for a $10,000 donation from Islamic Relief Canada to purchase the supplies.

"We feel it is important that from Islamic Centre and the Muslim community, that we are partners in education. Especially Indigenous education," he said. "That is our contribution to reconciliation too."

Awan said it was satisfying for him as a parent that the families didn't need to worry about the supplies.

A public notice was issued to YKDFN parents on Wednesday, stating "The Islamic Centre of Yellowknife has donated school supplies for every child in Ndilo and Detah grades JK-12 so, you don't have to buy your children school supplies." 

K'alemi Dene School principal Meagan Wowk says in the past, the school has bought supplies with its own budget to help families in need.

That money will now be freed up for other essential programs throughout the year.