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Show us the money

Adult students say they need more to make ends meet

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (Oct 18/02) - Eleven Aurora College students in Fort Providence are petitioning for a raise in student financial assistance.

The students are entitled to $282 every two weeks, or just over $300 bi-weekly for single parents.

"That's gross ... I can't support my family with the money I'm making right now," said Gilbert Bouvier, a single father of two boys.

The Aurora students have sent a letter of complaint to the Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation, the Deh Cho First Nations and Education Minister Jake Ootes.

Without greater financial assistance -- the students allege that it's been 10 years since the last increase -- Bouvier said he will have to give up on higher education and return to work.

A few of the students are holding down part-time jobs, but Bouvier said there isn't much work to be found in the community.

Student Bertha Landry contended that $484 per month cannot possibly cover living expenses, school supplies and pay a babysitter.

Although there is currently a lengthy waiting list of adults who have applied to Aurora College in Fort Providence, Landry said present student aid "doesn't encourage young adults to return to school. It just drives them away."

Shirley Gargan, career development co-ordinator for the Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation said the Local Training Authority (LTA) board, consisting of six members, will review the situation at their next monthly board meeting in November.

However, she noted that nothing can be changed until the next fiscal year because all Fort Providence's $257,000 in annual government funding has already been allocated for students this year.

The demand for assistance is substantial, said Gargan. The Fort Providence LTA sponsors more than 30 students who go to school in the NWT and in the South, she said.

In addition, literacy and trades programs, various workshops and Gargan's salary come out of the annual $257,000 grant. That funding has been part of a multi-year contract with the federal and territorial governments, and it's due for renewal in 2004, she noted.

Deh Gah Got'ie Chief Sam Gargan and Fort Providence Mayor Louie Constant are in Montreal this week to attend an Aboriginal Human Resources Development Agreement conference. Any possible future increase in government grants will be discussed there, according to Gargan.