UPEI faculty helping build Chilean school

Jim Day
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Dr. Irene Novaczek, right, director of UPEI's Institute of Island Studies and Dr. Kate Tilleczek, Canada Research Chair of Child/Youth Cultures and Transitions at UPEI, also took part in detailing the $5 million project.

Call it Campus Chiloe.

A diverse mix of UPEI faculty will be at the heart of a rural school that will be established over the next five years for indigenous youth of the remote islands in this southern region of Chile.

Irene Novaczek, director of UPEI’s Institute of Island Studies, has high hopes and great expectations for this $5.3 million project that has secured hefty funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.

She envisions the school as a community hub for youth, helping young women and men develop the skills and knowledge that they need, whether they choose to be fishers and farmers, seek employment in town, develop their own businesses, or continue on with their education.

Novaczek notes the Williche are islanders who, like residents here on P.E.I., are intensely attached to their land and sea.

“They are rich in talents and in knowledge about their natural surroundings, but their remote rural communities struggle with youth outmigration, and limited access to education and employment,’’ she said.

“They yearn for forms of social and economic development that fit with their traditional values and their holistic world view. We have committed to working with them to provide educational opportunities for their young people that will open doors to healthy and productive forms of employment, while also respecting the indigenous culture and the environment that Williche people depend upon.’’

Work, at the insistence of the many chiefs involved in the project, will begin with Chiloe’s poorest, most remote and most marginalized community.

The University of Prince Edward Island was one of 15 different schools and 17 different projects that CIDA selected to implement projects around the world that will stimulate sustainable growth, secure the future of children and youth, increase food security and advance Canada’s commitments on maternal, newborn and child health.

Novaczek says the courses to be taught at the school will reflect the social realities, needs and ambitions of the young people of the region.

“What we can’t do is pull young people into a school, sit them in chairs and keep them there for a typical university semester,’’ she said.

“They have small children of their own, they have elders to look after, they have gardens to tend and animals to care for. So we really have to adapt our school to meet their needs where they are.’’

The school itself will be named Wekimun, a Williche word that means the fusion of different types of knowledge. And UPEI certainly has assembled a team that will offer many types of knowledge about people, communities, education, land and sea.

Faculty involved in the project come from a host of departments at the university, including education, Island Studies, modern languages, the vet college, globalization, business, internationalization office, and the climate change lab.

Novaczek says the faculty team will be augmented by a talented group of Canadian community volunteers who will also collaborate with indigenous elders and local specialists in Chiloe to develop and deliver courses that are both practical and culturally appropriate.

Kate Tilleczek, Canada Research Chair in Child/Youth Cultures and Transitions, adds that this international project will also provide opportunities for enriching UPEI.

“It will enhance what we teach to students and provide an important focal point around which other research and teaching projects may develop,’’ said Tilleczek.

“This is the beginning of a very exciting time for both UPEI and our southern Chilean partners.’’

Organizations: University of Prince Edward Island, Canadian International Development Agency.She, Institute of Island Studies

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Paul
    December 03, 2012 - 11:45

    I'm surprised to see these negative comments. I would have thought Islanders would realize that they're doing pretty well in the world compared to other places in the world and would welcome the opportunity to show leadership, build our reputation internationally and establish relationships that could grow into something mutually beneficial in the future. I think it's great that UPEI is looking outward. It takes investment and risk and generosity to be a great place.

  • Wow
    November 14, 2012 - 15:19

    People going hungry kids going to school hungry and we are sending 5.3 mil to a Chilean school what is wrong with this picture thats a real smart one.

  • islander
    November 14, 2012 - 10:24

    Don't get me wrong, the work Irene & co are doing is wonderful and they are lovely, well-meaning people, but..............as far as I'm concerned, charity begins at home and we're quietly getting into an unholy mess here.

  • LARK
    November 14, 2012 - 09:43

    Just in time to get away from the Islander winter, - these ladies land a gig in Chili. Oh the waste we allow , - if they want to do good, resign your posts and go ahead, - but I resent seeing my taxmoney go to this foolishness, especially since Chilie is not a poor country, - and especially when people here are stuggling to make ends meet. Shame on Harper and Shea for allowing this waste of my taxmoney.

  • Gail
    November 14, 2012 - 09:38

    The headline is misleading, --- the taxpayers are 'helping' here, - and CERTAIN members of the faculty is doing WELL, by doing GOOD, ----- the Fed. Gov. should be more selective regarding throwing money around, - if we have such a big deficit, cut this crab out, - message to Gail Shea and to Mr. Harper.

  • Just Sayin
    November 14, 2012 - 07:46

    I can't believe that we invest this kind of money in a place so far away when we have so many in this country in dire need, especially in Canada's North.....

  • Resident
    November 14, 2012 - 07:29

    Koodos to the people who work on this project! I wish we invest as much energy and academic power in helping PEI schools to get out of "the worse in the country" list... Interesting how we perceive actions in "Mikinduri" as noble, but action at our own home as disruptive...