Free The Children and the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative partnered together to bring to life a timely campaign from February 14 – 25th 2011, that was designed to create widespread awareness of and concern for the challenges facing First Nations youth living on reserves to obtain a quality education in Canada.
The campaign specifically targeted non-Aboriginal Canadian youth, intended to equip them to engage their peer networks and communities in meaningful dialogue on the subject. In doing so, the campaign represented a noteworthy contribution to the creation of a generation of Canadian youth who exercise greater critical thought and active citizenship in support of their First Nations peers.
The campaign was student-led and had two key components:
Educate yourself: Students were inspired to care and provided succinct information that cultivates empathy and understanding of the issues surrounding on-reserve education for First Nations youth.
The campaign specifically examined the shortcomings of the on-reserve education system and how these inadequacies feed a cycle of poverty. In addition to sharing challenges, the campaign highlighted how education can help to break that cycle of poverty and what tremendous opportunities could emerge from the education of First Nations youth.
Participating students and teachers were provided with compelling statistics each day for 10 business days starting February 14, 2011 through e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. Each statistic was linked to a webpage that expands on the topic to promote understanding. This was further supported by background information on the First Nations education system on reserves in Canada.
Take action: Students were called to take action to promote widespread understanding and concern for the issue of inadequate on-reserve education by raising awareness through their schools and networks about the issue.
Participating students and teachers were provided with an awareness action guide with recommendations for effective awareness-raisers, including detailed steps for three key actions: one for their school, one for their community, and one for their online social networks. In this way, students were encouraged to raise awareness not just with their peer groups, but also with their parents and other adults in their communities. In particular, by delivering statistics and links through social networks, the campaign readily enables students to reach an exponentially larger network through viral sharing of the information.
Students who wish to learn more and take further action will be provided with links to the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, the Assembly of First Nations, INAC, National Aboriginal Day, and other relevant sites so they can explore additional opportunities to contribute as they wish.
For more information go to We Schools in Action Program at: http://www.freethechildren.com/weschools/