Funding cuts to First Nation schools continue with the end of SchoolNet program

The CBC news story, "Reserve schools worried about internet cuts", (see below) highlights a funding problem that will be affecting First Nation schools across the country starting in early 2007.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak has delivered Industry Canada’s First Nations SchoolNet program in its present format in partnership with First Nation schools across Ontario since December 2002. The program has included working with the schools to develop subsidized broadband connections to better serve the students, staff and community. These connectivity subsidies from the Industry Canada’s First Nations SchoolNet program will end as of December of this year for the First Nation schools across Ontario.

Presently there are no other plans in place from the Federal government to support First Nation schools to sustain these broadband connections starting in January. Many schools have T1 connections that support video conferencing and other broadband applications. Some of the schools are sharing the costs of these connections with other local community organizations (the health centre and the band office). The school connectivity subsidy is helping remote and rural schools to access resources too often taken for granted in urban centres.

There is a need to make sure that all Members of Parliament are made aware of the impact of this decision. Hopefully additional press coverage and discussions in Parliament will provide the pressure required to ensure the Federal government announces an alternative program and the dollars necessary to help First Nation schools to stay connected with the rest of the world.

For more information, contact ...

Brian Beaton
Coordinator, K-Net Services
Keewaytinook Okimakanak
Box 1439, 115 King Street
Sioux Lookout, ON, P8T 1B9
Tel: 807-737-1135 or toll free at 877-737-KNET(5638) ext 1251
Fax: 807-737-1720
IP and ISDN Video conferencing available


From CBC Online ...

Reserve schools worried about internet cuts
Sept 8, 2006 - CBC News

Some cash-strapped schools on Saskatchewan First Nations reserves are worried they may soon lose their internet connections — a move some educators say could be a disaster for learning.

Early next year, the money will run out for the federal First Nations SchoolNet program, which providing internet access to reserve schools across Canada, including 170 in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The program has been in place since 2002.

A spokesperson from Industry Canada, which runs the program along with regional  management groups, said there's no plan to reinstate funding. The department doesn't know if there will be more money available later.

With the program gone, some schools would need to come up with an extra $1,000 a month — money they say they don't have.

Brian McCarthy, a teacher in the northern community of Patuanak, said he's not sure how the school will adapt when the money runs out, although research materials are always a crucial requirement.

"Our whole media studies program is based on the internet," he said. "Our library is very ill-equipped, so all of our classes use the internet access for research."

Teachers, too, are dependent on the net connection.

"Between eight and nine in the morning, at least two-thirds of our teachers are on the internet researching material for the classes," McCarthy said.