SYDNEY – Digital Mi’kmaq continues to find ways to help Indigenous students access e-learning in Atlantic Canada by donating over 700 laptops to Indigenous communities across the Atlantic region.
Chris Googoo, Ulnooweg’s chief operating officer, says the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the systemic barriers Indigenous students face while accessing education.
The company first helped with personal protection equipment but as the pandemic continued they switched gears to meet the needs of online learners. And the organization listened to the communities.
Digital Mi’kmaq‘s “Backyard Science” programming is as an educational tool that balances modern science with Indigenous knowledge.
Googoo sees it as an educational resource that helps Indigenous students see the link between the study of oceans, ecology and Indigenous knowledge.
Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation also contributed $100,000 in grant funding to assist Indigenous communities to increase their educational capacity.
Googoo says the laptops they donated cost between $800 to $900 each and were best-suited to run the special Digital Mi’kmaq programming it offered such as 3D tech, animation and robotics.
About 250 of those laptops were donated to Nova Scotia with the majority headed to Eskasoni First Nation.
“Nova Scotia still has accessibility issues,” says Googoo.
He took part in a meeting that discussed the internet access challenges rural communities face in the province. Googoo says the province is committed to meeting those barriers by 2025.
Both We’koqma’q and Eskasoni First Nation face internet accessibility issues because of their geographic locations and he knows communities are working to try to fix those problems. Eskasoni is still developing its own telecommunications company.
But Digital Mi’kmaq did what they could by donating Chromebooks and laptops. Googoo said he was happy to help but he knows more issues need to be addressed. He thinks the Mi’kmaq education authority, Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, is still chronically underfunded.
Another issue laid bare by COVID-19 was access to food and food insecurity in Indigenous communities. And a partnership with the United Way helped five communities across the Atlantic provinces begin breaking ground on community food programs like food centres, community gardens and greenhouses.
Potlotek First Nation is one that has already started on its greenhouse. The other communities include Lennox island, Eel River Bar, Annapolis Valley and Miapukek.
Googoo says he’s excited to find out what knowledge and stories on food security issues elders will pass on to younger Indigenous people.