NORTEP library. Photo courtesy NORTEP/NORPAC group on Facebook, photo by Dale Apesis.

A representative from the Northern Teachers Education Program says they still aren’t sure how provincial funding cuts to the program will affect them, but assure classes will resume as normal.

In July, NORTEP was informed in a letter that provincial government funding to the program would be discontinued in 2017 and redirected to other post-secondary institutions, said program spokesperson Jennifer Malmsten.

However, Malmsten said she wanted to dispel rumours on the program completely shutting down.

“A number of people had heard that NORTEP is closing completely. That’s not true,” she said.

“As far as the students go, it’s business as usual. They’re still going to have classes, they’re still taking them from the U of S or the U of R, they’re still convocating from the universities. There’s no change for the student body.”

In a statement from the province, Deputy Minister for Advanced Education Louise Greenberg says the changes are about eliminating overlaps in programming and saving money in administrative costs.  Greenberg also stated that students will continue to receive high-quality training in La Ronge.

NORTEP will be meeting with government officials on August 29 to determine how these changes will affect the future of the program.

The program recently marked its 40th anniversary. Its website says it “was initiated in 1976 by the Northern Lights School Division to facilitate access to teacher education and certification for northerners, particularly those of Aboriginal ancestry. At the time, there was less than 1% of Aboriginal Teachers in the north and the teacher turn-over rate was very high.”

Just last week, the province announced a new Dene Teacher Education Program for up to 24 students to learn locally in La Loche. The province is contributing $240,000 to that program with the Northern Light Schools Division and Clearwater River Dene Nation covering the other half of the $480,000 program costs.