Campaign encourages Nunavik youth to persevere in school

Esuma providing up to $5,000 for School Perseverance Days events

This year’s School Perseverance Days campaign theme is “Perseverance: It’s in our nature” which refers to the determination and resilience of Inuit. (Image courtesy of Esuma)

By Madalyn Howitt

A campaign in Nunavik is putting the spotlight on Inuit youth to help promote resilience in education and in life.

The School Perseverance Days campaign encourages Nunavimmiut to share personal stories of perseverance as a way to inspire students in Nunavik to stay the course, said Stephanie Jacques, information officer with the Kativik Regional Government.

“The idea is to bring awareness, make some noise and create a bit of a buzz about enforcing the value of perseverance in school and graduation,” Jacques said. “It’s to give Nunavimmiut a platform to express how they persevere, why they persevere and transmit these types of messages on Facebook or however we they want and share this.”

The campaign in Nunavik is spearheaded by Esuma, which roughly translates into “thinking” in Inuktitut. The group, which aims to support educational success, was founded in 2014 by several regional organizations including the Kativik School Board, Makivik Corp. and broadcaster Taqramiut Nipingat Inc., among others.

In 2018, a special report from Nunavik’s school board Kativik Ilisarniliriniq showed that high school graduation rates in Nunavik were around 25 per cent, compared with 77 per cent elsewhere in the province.

The annual School Perseverance Days campaign, now in its sixth year, actually runs through all of Quebec, but Jacques said campaign materials sent from Montreal aren’t always inclusive of the unique experiences of Nunavimmiut youth.

For example, the internet is often not high-speed in Nunavik, making online activities a challenge, and sending items by mail often takes longer. Additionally, visual materials aren’t always representative of the Inuit population.

Instead, Esuma is encouraging participants to organize events about perseverance that work for their own realities, Jacques said.

Schools or communities interested in organizing activities for the campaign can apply for up to $5,000 from Esuma. Yearly activities include “perseverance murals” in schools where students write down their dreams and ambitions, a “send a postcard” program for Nunavimmiut to write messages of encouragement to youth and various social media challenges.

This year, Nunavik’s Youth Employment Services has been featuring stories of students and teachers on its social media pages to “acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the featured individuals and also inspire Nunavimmiut youth to persevere,” said co-ordinator Charlene Williams.

The Ajuinnata challenge, meanwhile, is inviting people from Nunavik to post a photo or a video on social media that shows a way they persevere in life.

The campaign’s 2022 theme is “Perseverance: It’s in our nature.”

“Inuit are strong survivors,” said co-ordinator Sylvia Cloutier.

“So we basically looked at school perseverance as a way to also promote Inuit perseverance.”

Cloutier used hunting as an example. It’s a skill that takes a long time to learn, but comes with big rewards when mastered.

“When they come back with their hunts they’re able to feed their families, they’re able to feed their elders in their community. It’s a good feeling to share,” she said.

Cloutier said sometimes it’s a challenge to get Nunavimmiut to submit videos sharing their stories of perseverance.

“Inuit are generally very humble people, so sometimes people don’t want to come across as showing off or boasting,” she said.

“But this is really in the spirit of sharing, so that we can encourage young people to look at perseverance in the way that we did in the old days.”

This year’s School Perseverance Days campaign runs from Feb. 14 to 18.

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Person on

    Why are the people shown to only have black hair and brown skin? What about Inuit with light skin tones and light coloured hair?

    You always see these organizations depicting Inuit the same cliched way. Black hair brown skin wearing only traditional style clothing doing only hunter gatherer activities.

    • Posted by NUNAVIMIUK on

      What about half breeds like me wearing my underamour wardrobe.

  2. Posted by Canoe green on

    Fake igloo drawing. The designers apparently know little about the geometries of igloo construction while being stereotypical and non inspirational at the same time. Bland fade into the background to join the rest of the other countless programs that benefit few.

    • Posted by Thousand worded pucture on

      A picture tells the whole story. Whenever anything is representative of Inuit, it never fails to show the past, as though it’s where we are headed. The igloo, the ulu, all that is Inuit. It’s beautiful. Many cultures have what they show as pride, it’s the greatest to show that. But I’m concerned that Inuit try’s to hard to keep the vision of the past, in jeopardizing the future. Don’t get me wrong, I love the igloo, just seeing the symbolism of building blocks, but something is not right by using that symbolization. It’s as though, we have to choose to build the past with igloos, and be good at it, all the while not embracing the building of the future, as it’s all left up to another culture to build it for us. That’s what I see in the building of the igloo as representative to the education of the future. The reality of living today, is not in an igloo. Can anyone let me know if anyone still lives in an igloo, I mean In real time living? not in their minds or days ago.

      • Posted by Wow an Inuksuk on

        This is an observation i’ve had too. At worst the constant recycling of the same basic iconography is tiresome and shows a real lack of creativity, at worst it is as you say, an inability to see young Inuit in any other way that as totems confined within a small range of possibilities.

  3. Posted by Narrowed focus on

    This has been going on forever, encouraging kids to stay in school. Stressing educational importance is met with lots of rejection in Nunavik. There are several factors or obstacles in the way of education prevention. It’s mainly due to the narrowed focus placed on Inuit life, as a separate sacred minority struggle up against the main stream culture to the south. Whereby the other cultures are interpreted as an intrusion of Inuit language and Inuit culture and depletion of Inuit way of life. That way of thinking, started in childhood, continuing into community life, and sets up opposition to the school system, which to many Inuit represents the intrusion. Kids are excited about going away, to higher learning, if they do overcome the obstacles sat up in the homes and communities, but when they get south, they find themselves inferior, and not educational equipped , due to their long term learning that education is really an intrusion of Inuit life. What happens then. Is that the student finds a job within the same organization that are encouraging the kids to not be educated, but to work for Inuit organizations that require only the emphasis on the attitude of oppression that has occurred or appears to have occurred. For those that quit school at together in elementary, life becomes the challenge of keep the next generation into that same cycle of opposition to education. Until Inuit get enough people go through the system and to teach the kids that education is really a universal goal, that belongs to all humanity, and the more you have of it , the more you grow. I don’t think, Inuit are deprived of the opportunity! However it’s tough out there, teaching pride, and having kids grow up with it will accomplish much. It’s just the perception needs addressing, and teaching about self values in the faced of not backing down to any type of oppression that is there. I’m not saying it’s not a challenge for the students, but most that are quitting, as doing so , not because of the oppression, but the attitude of giving up too easily.

  4. Posted by nunavut on

    Nothing would work more than parents invested in their child’s education. PERIOD

  5. Posted by I see with my little eye on

    Kids are not witnessing much encouragement today. Kids are being put down, if they can’t build an igloo, or run a dog team, or hunt , fish and sew. They are shamed for not learning theses things, and shamed more for perseverance of an education that doesn’t teach these same things. Really the kids are confused in many families that are not teaching culture or encouraging any other educational means. Some kids are doing well in one or the other, as they are being taught Inuit ways, or encourage to get a education by school. The most fortunate kids are those that are enlightened to both avenues, but they are not the majority in Nunavik. This shaming needs to be seen as abusive, and dealt with as child abuse. Plus not encouraging children to get a school education should also be met with discipline towards any adult who uses such abuse towards kids. Stop this: tell kids that you are not Inuk , if you don’t hunt or sew. Be aware of these narrowed minded teachers of culture, they are keeping the Inuit world in the past, selfishly.

    • Posted by An old inuk lady tells her kid: stay there until you’re finished on

      I know one elder woman who always argued with her child, when the child was a student in the south. The student kept calling her mom to have her come back home to the north. She was even crying to come home. But, the old lady was determined to keep the child in the south until school was over. It was the hardest thing that that old lady had to do, because she loved her child so much. The child went on to get a very good education, and today lives in the north. she’s highly educated, speaks and even teaches Inuktitut. That’s my story, because I was there.

  6. Posted by Stay in school on

    We watch each year, students from Nunavik that do finish high school only to go south and suddenly quit and come home. Homesickness has been blamed, but there’s also the unpreparedness of being behind the rest of the province, in education. That’s a big issue. It’s not an easy task to get that catch up grades in the system. But as far as culture shock, homesickness, it’s too bad Nunavik is not taking advantage of programs already in a northern setting. Like in Iqaluit, and other centres in Nunavut. Using other northern communities right along the north., where culture and people have much in common. Political reasons are probably in the way, but surely if KI research this more, maybe there’s something there for nunavik.

  7. Posted by Qualified only in Nunavik on

    One of the problems is that Nunavik organizations accept less than qualified persons to work in their jobs. The main qualities are being inuk, and that’s a good thing, but not without the background resumes. The next time you see a job advertised, or career promotions for theses organizations, compare the needs to the reality of what’s actually hired. It’s the same For election into makivik and other like KRG. They take people who have completed introduction courses at John Abbott, and other entree educational schools, the real quality of a sound graduate university or even trade is not important. Until those Human Resources do a more demanding job of hiring qualified people, Nunavik will only continue to not grow well in education, or development. Encourage qualified people helps education.

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