. A home-made education
New school offers wider range of education

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Kakisa ( May 19/00) - Kakisa residents proudly, and ceremonially, opened their new school to the public Thursday morning.

With many dignitaries on hand for the event, Chief Lloyd Chicot, speaking in Slavey, referred to the importance of incorporating the Dene language and culture into education.

"The younger generations need to have an idea of how things were done in the past," said Julian Landry, who interpreted Chicot's speech.

Landry, the chair of Kakisa's District Education Council, added the elders have had a great influence on today's leaders and helped set the direction of education today.

Deh Cho First Nations Grand Chief Michael Nadli described the school as a "significant investment." He recalled his generation and those before him having to leave home to further their education. Now he said he hopes Kakisa students will take advantage of the opportunity to obtain their diplomas at home. Like Chicot and Landry, Nadli emphasized the need to blend "western education" with their Dene "cultural inheritance."

It was later revealed that community members have considered the idea of renaming Kakisa Lake school to Ka'a'ge Tu Dene Editteh Koe (Kakisa Dene school).

Deh Cho MLA Michael McLeod commended Kakisa contractor Julian Landry for employing local workers. He also acknowledged the rest of the community volunteers who lobbied for the funding and lent a hand in designing the octagonal-shaped building.

"It goes to show that it takes a whole community to raise the children," he said.

Yet the structure and all of its equipment would be meaningless if it weren't for the students, he noted.

"They are the most important feature of the school," he said, having awarded two prospective graduates bouquets of flowers. Two students, Melaine Simba and Jennifer Simba, were recognized for their perseverance.

Nolan Swartzentruber, director of the Deh Cho Divisional Board of Education, said the school is truly a model for other communities. With a local design, local builders and two graduates, it's an example of what can happen when the community works together, he said.

Minister of Education Jake Ootes told the audience he grew up in a one-room schoolhouse and can appreciate its benefits. It offers a more individualized, personable education, he said. Ootes added that while government initiatives come and go over the years, schools and teachers quietly carry on, preparing students for the rest of their lives.

"I hope all of you have wonderful memories of this particular building as the years go on," said Ootes.

The school is a huge step forward from the previous trailer/teacher's residence that doubled as a school house. Brought into the community in 1987, the cramped trailer arrived only a few years after electricity was established in the community.