School resumes in Nunavik despite 77 vacant teaching positions

Cost of living, isolation of northern communities are barriers to recruitment, says school board president

Sarah Aloupa, president of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, seen in a May 2022 file photo, says recruitment and retention of teachers continues to be a challenge. The school year began last week with 77 positions vacant. (File photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

School resumed on time on Aug. 15 at Nunavik’s 18 public schools, despite a shortage of teaching staff.

The Kativik Ilisarniliriniq school board is still looking to fill 77 vacant teaching positions, according to Jade Bernier, a spokesperson for the school board.

Of those positions, there are 63 vacancies for second-language (English or French) teachers, 29 of whom would be home room teachers. There are also 14 vacancies for Inuktitut positions.

The school board employs 530 teachers.

The number of vacancies at the beginning of each school year fluctuates. There were 37 vacancies in 2018, a five-year high of 84 in 2019, a five-year low of 12 in 2020, and then 51 in 2021.

Sarah Aloupa, president of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, said there are a number of factors that lead to teacher recruitment and retention challenges, including the high cost of living, limited housing options and isolation in a new, more remote environment.

“Some come and have culture shock, and want to go home the next day,” she said.

Kativik Ilisarniliriniq is still actively recruiting teachers for this school year. The school board recently posted a list of vacant positions it is actively trying to fill, including vice-principals in some schools.

Aloupa said the school board offers benefits that include housing, travel, cargo and retention bonuses. Those benefits were extended to include locally hired Inuit staff this year after the union and the school board reached a new collective agreement.

“We have a very good offer for teachers who come to teach a second language,” Aloupa said, referring to teachers who provide English or French instruction. “We have done a lot to try to have non-Inuit apply to our schools.”

To manage the shortage, Nunavik’s schools are recruiting community members locally who can act as substitute teachers, merging classrooms when possible, offering teaching roles to behavioural technicians and teacher trainees, and asking retirees and former teachers if they might be interested in filling in on a temporary basis.

Overall, Aloupa is optimistic about a good school year, despite the vacancies. There were no delays getting schools open, and summer renovation projects at schools in Salluit, Puvirnituq and Inukjuak were completed on schedule during the summer.

In regards to COVID-19, masks are no longer mandatory, but Aloupa said students are still encouraged to listen to public health advice, wear a mask and practise social distancing.

Aloupa also had a beginning of the year message to parents and students.

For the parents: visit your local schools, meet the teachers and support your children as they get back into the busy academic year.

And for students: ask your teachers questions if you need help with anything.

“Asking questions is the answer to all of your problems,” Aloupa said.

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(22) Comments:

  1. Posted by Boleen on

    Interesting, I wonder how Nunavut is doing?

    • Posted by Worse on

      A week ago or so it was 90 positions vacant per a CBC Article published on August 15th.

      The poverty cycle in Nunavut will never be broken without a proper education and proper opportunities for children. As a person who loves the North but knows what offerings exist outside Nunavut I don’t think id ever let my child go through school in Nunavut. Poor class offerings, teachers having to teach classes they have no qualifications to teach, and when you talk to teachers they refer it to more of a baby sitting position than an actual teaching position. There’s such a massive spread in the individual students in the same grade because they’re pushed through a system and they might be in grade 7 when they can only read at a grade 2 level. Unfortunately, everyone in that grade 7 class who is looking or challenge won’t get it and the person who’s reading at the grade 2 level won’t get the support they need.

      It’s a disaster for everyone and only continues to perpetuate the status quo of poor education rates in Nunavut and a near 50% grade 12 completion rate with poor secondary education enrolment, be it trades or academia.

      Its broken and the children are the victims and their children will suffer as a result. Don’t get me wrong I have to imagine teaching is a very difficult endeavour in Nunavut. Poor attendance rates make it impossible to keep kids on par with each other which creates the discrepancies and makes it impossible to deliver a planned curriculum as some fall far behind. On top of that, you have the typical two-year teaching contracts. Two years, pay your student loans and leave. No actual investment into communities or caring about the long term success of kids. Its just broken from every angle you look at it.

      • Posted by Vince on

        Two years, pay your student loans and leave. No actual investment into communities or caring about the long term success of kids. Its just broken from every angle you look at it.
        In fairness, it’s a really sad place to teach and not everyone can do it.

        Watching the elementary kids walk down the hall at the end of the day was heart breaking for many. So many of the kiddos were already permanently scarred and maimed for life. It was hard to watch sometimes. You say new teachers aren’t invested, I say it is a defense mechanism to protect themselves. Perhaps, we are both right.

        IMO, the most difficult students there are to teach are FASD students as the condition effects their rationale thought. As a result, you cannot have a reasonable conversation with them and they are so unpredictable and impulsive. We all know how high the FASD numbers are.

        I am a Principal with 25 years experience. Putting new Rockstar teachers in the preceding environment, is setting them up for failure. It’s no surprise at all they don’t stay. The future looks bleak.

        • Posted by Worse on

          I certainly don’t disagree, and that’s why I did mention it has to be extremely difficult to teach here. Unfortunately, teachers are tossed into social work territory on a daily basis. I can respect that you basically go into a hibernation state to get through your term and shield yourself from the socioeconomic problems that plague Nunavut. It’s not what you signed up for and it really shouldn’t be the responsibility of a teacher. No teachers should be taking after school calls from students being abused at home, going without food, suffering from a broken home state but they do.

          Its a compounding of issues and it makes it near impossible to tackle. You can scream housing is the core issue but without improvement in home life houses get trashed. You can scream education is the core issue but without a proper home life education becomes impossible for the majority. Its a brutal circle and every time the conversation is had you end up where you started.

        • Posted by Jamie on

          Yup, I just finished 7 years up in Northern Quebec. It’s very much the same issues up there. I would say that the staff was very engaged, yet like in many of these school, are using Southern solutions for Northern problems. It’s also impossible to prepare educators for what to expect if they’ve never lived in those environments before. On top of culture shock, educators are often way over their head’s with the amount of peripheral work, issues, it takes to maintain a classroom. Being realistic about what the educational goals should be, also needs to be addressed. This model of education has not integrated well, in places where being in the bush is still prioritized. I found that these communities also valued having committed people staying who may not have the qualifications, over taking a chance on losing to a potentially qualified one and done candidate. Relationships are at the centre of any educational gains with these students, who as mentioned, often have unstructured, abusive, or traumatic home lives. Lastly, I think it is under appreciated how difficult it is to ask people to live so far away from their families, and friends. For most, unless they have a relationship or kids where they are teaching, has a lifespan. The strong turn over creates difficulties for educators to form strong friendships with work colleagues. There are so many factors that those who have never lived in the north don’t understand and will never take into consideration. It was liked living the calmest emergency in my case, with the pandemic only escalating the many community issues. Would I go back.. Yes and no. Yes, because for me, it was a very enriching experience, gaining a love of the local culture, and the relationships I formed with my students. No because, I don’t want to put the rest of my life on pause, for the rest of my life.

    • Posted by Nunavut on

      Meanwhile, In Nunavut, school for the year has been cancelled, due to lack of interest.

  2. Posted by Vince Kane on

    To manage the the shortage, Nunavik’s schools are recruiting community members locally who can act as substitute teachers, merging classrooms when possible, offering teaching roles to behavioural technicians and teacher trainees, and asking retirees and former teachers if they might be interested in filling in on a temporary basis.
    Desperate times call for desperate measures.

    This will only hurt recruiting in the future though. New teachers need support and help to learn a new and difficult job. Not thrown to the wolves and put in a position where they have to support unqualified people with huge class sizes.

    The future is really bleak I say.

  3. Posted by 867 on

    In the south, most who live in remote First Nation’s must go to bigger cities like Thunder Bay or Winnipeg for high school and live in the boarding homes. This is because they can’t retain teachers in the smaller communities. Maybe it is time Nunavut and Nunavik start doing this too. Makes no sense to have high schools in small community of 200 peoples.

  4. Posted by ChesLey on

    School is a part of the whole, when social problems, alcohol abuse throw other areas into turmoil there is no quick or easy way around it. It is the children that have no where to escape and it is the children that are the most affected with the abuse that comes with excessive binge drinking parents and family.

  5. Posted by Horror story on

    Suffering children. It hits the kids hard. I don’t think it’s anything other than alcohol and drugs. Nunavik has gone to the dogs so to speak. Word is out, no doubt, in the mainstream Canada society that it’s literally no progress, it’s not a good environment for dedicated and caring teachers. Absence, days off , local teachers not qualified but teaching anyway , because there’s no one else. Then kids don’t learn well from unqualified teachers. Then bingo nights , and weekend party, cripples local people , not just school, daycares and stores , no workers. This is over and over again. It’s blind leading the blind into the unknown, but known for sure that it’s useless outcomes for a better future. No leadership has insight into the realities. It’s just a get what I can , mentally, materials,and gambling rules the day, alongside the booze. Kids are not a priority. They become vandalism wise, not educational wise.

    • Posted by Here’s the Reality on

      Mainstream Canadian society?

      Mainstream Canadian society hasn’t heard of Nunavik and can’t find it on a map of Quebec, let alone know anything of its social problems.

      Most of mainstream Canadian society doesn’t even know Nunavut exists, expecting it of Nunavik is a pipe dream.

      • Posted by That’s not mainstreams problem on

        That’s not a good thing for the north, as you are putting it, in that many don’t know about it from elsewhere. What’s your point in stating that reality? People in the south and elsewhere have their own life, and the north has its own too. When you depend on the south for your life, it’s not a good thing. Teachers are getting their education in the big university, and the north must go out to get educated like the rest of small communities in the country, stop being narrowed into staying in your comfort zone, and not growing.

  6. Posted by Look at the community goals on

    How much is spent on education in Nunavik? I don’t know, maybe someone can tell the amount. How much is the new treatment Center in kuujjuaq costing to build, and to run the programs? It’s just food for thought, the educational funds and addiction funds that I mention. For an area thats going to spend millions on addiction programs, that’s been proven over and over useless outcomes, and just compare it somewhat with educational funding, I think it’s shameful that the community has been allowed to come this far in its booze problem, and allowed its educational needs be neglected. Just think about it. There’s more priority in addiction education and programs , then it is in kids education. And the addiction programs are useless. This movement towards a future doesn’t look very promising. Nunavik has become a healing only society, not a live responsible society, whereby you live a responsible life. It’s all about not living well, as to get into some kind of healing, and people are existing and dying into that nightmare.

    • Posted by Where’d ya get your info from?! on

      Here’s more food for thought.. the addiction centre is NOT federally funded and is in absolutely NO way taking funds from other essential resources. FACT.

      • Posted by It’s not a getting of any financial info. on

        Oh , yes budgets you are referring to, but I still say , there’s only so much funds to go around , budget for this and that or not. That’s not as important as my response in this way: The comment above comparison of a treatment Center spending to school spending is irrelevant for the funding aspect, as it’s not a money source point. It’s more a philosophical point. And the point is: there’s more needs put into dealing with alcohol and drug treatment programs , then is put into education, never mind the money, I’m talking energy in life. The society of Nunavik has taken a wrong path in life towards a sad negativity that has put education on the back burner. The other sad thing about that path, it continues to be paid for by government input! Not allowing the victims to experience the motivation needed to get well. That’s where education has its problems.

  7. Posted by All these positions on

    This is sick really. So much opportunity, and you see young people just wasted , walking around without a future goal. You can smell alcohol and marijuana all day long. Wasted future and manifest into an unhealthy society. When you talk about vacant positions, it’s not just the schools, but the rest of services. You have office workers , not showing up in the morning, water and sewage trucks without drivers and workers, daycare with staff crippled by alcohol, even going to work around kids, when they do go to work, smells of alcohol. Stores closed due to no cashiers. It’s a crisis, but there no one doing anything, because the ones in charge are not show up either due to their drinking. Then you have landholdings planning a future beer and wine store to cash in on the profits of an already crippled society, taking advantage of peoples problems for profit, rather than investing in a future plan for wellness and a good community for the children, this is sick.

  8. Posted by confused on

    Vacant positions probably in dry communities 🙁

    • Posted by Jamie on

      Do you really think the community is dry? I worked in a ‘Dry’ community. Everyone was still drinking. Working in these communities as a teacher has a 3-4 year lifespan at best. Many of the teachers who go to these communities are 1st year teachers looking for experience. It immediately turns them off teaching, because the school and community situation on all levels is so mentally draining.

  9. Posted by Drastic measures needed on

    Nunavik needs drastic measures applied. People need to wake up one morning and the fm will announce that the area is dry . It’s illegal to possess or consume alcohol. It’s over, should be the announcement. I know this will never happen, it’s just a hypothetical jest. But something has to be done for the kids of Nunavik. The government has to step in and apply some kind of clean up. The results of the deplorable issues are a threat to kids and other responsible citizens, and a threat to a healthy future. Health care just a few weeks ago were sending in paramedics, the military has been in the thoughts of health care providers to have the Quebec government send help to the communities, and education needs 70 workers, it’s all from neglect caused by alcohol and drugs.

  10. Posted by Majorly unaware on

    There’s no awareness by the ones that are capable of doing something. So, how can they if they’re blinded into it all? This lack of interest in education is not new, it’s as old as the community. It’s more pronounced today because of several factors. Social media and internet is a major contributor to the exposure. 25 years ago, would have us facing the same shortage, with less population of course, but with less awareness that anything is wrong. Still too many don’t get it even today. What’s the worse case outcomes? The society will continue into this uneducated participation! Lost opportunities continue. The government will keep pouring in funding the communities, the next generation will be big percentage uneducated therefore. The cycle continues as the population grows, and not a high education rate amongst locals, and the southerners doing well with the jobs and housing as usual.

  11. Posted by Uneducated Eskimo 819er on

    Nunavik and Nunavut have lost 98% of their true cultural identity. Residential school’s has done great damage to inuits and First Nations people and the results are horrendous, this is the outcome of the residential schools system. I don’t think things will get any better for the next few decades unless the leaders start leading and set an example to our kids. The government wants drugs and alcohol to flow into our communities cuz they want us to be depending on them and to tell us how to be as Eskimos.?

    • Posted by Never mind the government, what do you want? on

      Your view of the situation is the problem accumulating within the population. It’s easy to keep on your downward spiral, while shifting your responsibilities away to the residential school system. Many of us have been victims of hardship and deportable conditions. I grew up with horrible abuse, if a can go on , I’m sure many others can too. I’m sick and tired of people weeny about their life being the product of someone else’s agenda. Yes, the sick people around us cause much misery, but what are we to do , lie down and give it up. I decided not to lie down, and so can you.

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