Nunavut teachers’ union criticizes premier’s recruitment plans
“The idea that more will simply move in as others move out is false”
Updated May 6 at 9:30 a.m.
The Nunavut Teachers’ Association says that the territory’s premier underestimates the challenges of teacher recruitment and retention.
A statement made by Premier Joe Savikataaq at a news conference on Monday, May 4, about the territory’s COVID-19 response was “reckless” and “short-sighted,” NTA President John Fanjoy told Nunatsiaq News.
When asked during the news conference whether he was worried that Nunavut might lack teachers for next year, Savikataaq said the Department of Education is always looking out for new teachers.
“September is still quite a few months away, and there was an announcement earlier in the year that Ontario was going to lay off a whole bunch of teachers, so maybe these teachers would want to come work in Nunavut,” Savikataaq said.
Fanjoy said Savikataaq’s remarks are “unfortunately an accurate reflection of how the Government of Nunavut is handling the current teacher retention crisis in Nunavut.”
“Teachers are in high demand across the country, and the idea that more will simply move in as others move out is false,” Fanjoy said.
So far, it looks like the number of teachers leaving Nunavut will be “substantial,” he said.
Since March, Nunavut teachers have faced cascading challenges due to COVID-19 prevention measures, school closures and confusion over what they should be doing and where they should be during the school closures.
But teachers are not leaving Nunavut simply due to COVID-19, Fanjoy said.
“Teachers are choosing to end their careers in Nunavut because of the chronic lack of support in schools for students and educators, in particular for our Nunavut Teachers Education Program graduates and teachers who are new to Nunavut,” he said.
The workload increases each year at the territory’s schools, while the supports continue to slowly evaporate, he said.
These problems have only grown under COVID-19 restrictions, he said.
“The morale of experienced Nunavut teachers is also at an all-time low, and some would rather leave their homes than continue to feel so disregarded by their employer,” Fanjoy said.
It’s not just about the money that teachers can expect to pay when returning to Nunavut after the summer break, he said.
Under the current travel restrictions designed to keep COVID-19 out of Nunavut, teachers will be expected to pay $2,100 or more, if they have a family, for a two-week supervised stay in a southern hotel before entering the territory.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. The travel restrictions are for everyone that’s leaving Nunavut other than medical patients,” Savikataaq said on May 4.
The teachers’ pressures to leave go beyond the ones imposed by the pandemic, said Fanjoy.
“They are leaving because of school violence that is not being addressed. Teachers are leaving because of long delays in salary placement, and untenable staff housing in many communities,” he said. “Overall, educators are leaving because they are unsupported and undervalued by the Government of Nunavut.”
In terms of Nunavut’s teacher recruitment efforts in southern Canada, Fanjoy said “there is very little recruiting happening in southern Canada, even before COVID-19.”
“Worse still, there is no recruiting happening in our high schools to promote Inuit entering the NTEP program and increasing the desperately needed amount of bilingual Inuit teachers in our system,” Fanjoy said. “Brochures and a folding table at some job fairs are not going to fix this.”
Last August, more than 60 teaching positions remained vacant Nunavut-wide.
Fanjoy said that he expected the education system to be short-staffed again this September, for the third year in a row, and that “people need to know that it is not due solely to COVID-19.”
“It is because the teachers and school administrators, the ones who work directly with Nunavut’s youth each day, are no longer willing to be treated in such a careless manner by the employer,” he said.
The amount of teacher turnover each year in Nunavut is often not clear until June. But more than 30 positions are now being advertised by the GN, mainly in the Kitikmeot and Qikiqtani regions, including several open positions for the principals, and for teachers in Naujaat, whose school had a troubled year.
The Department of Education has told Nunatsiaq News that as of Jan. 28 there were 37.5 educator positions available for competition.
- In the Kitikmeot—nine (eight per cent of total educator staff)
- In the Kivalliq—1.5 (less than one per cent of total educator staff)
- In the Qikiqtani—27 (eight per cent of total educator staff)
“Because each community has a different end of school date, educator staffing numbers for the 2020-21 school year are currently unavailable,” a May 5 statement from the education department said.
Additional information: The Department of Education has provided Nunatsiaq News with more detailed information about the educator positions in the territory that are currently available for competition.