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Dozens protest decision to move NORTEP to Northlands College

Students, faculty & alumni of the Northern Teacher Education Program protest a decision to transition the program to Northlands College in August. Amie Bell / Submitted

Dozens of people participated in a protest walk through La Ronge, Sask. on Thursday afternoon in response to changes coming to the Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP) according to its student president.

On Wednesday, Advanced Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre announced that the La Ronge-based education degree program will move to Northlands College starting in August.

READ MORE: Northlands College takes over university education in northern Saskatchewan

NORTEP student president Amie Bell said Thursday that students were concerned because “Northlands College is more of a distance learning program … with a lot of televised teaching.”

“NORTEP really focused on that one-on-one teacher interaction and that’s why it is such a successful program.”

The move comes after the province announced last August that NORTEP’s funding would be cut and the program would be consolidated into an existing post-secondary institution. On Wednesday Eyre called the move to Northlands College “a really great northern based solution.”

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“Northlands is based in La Ronge, so they’re already on the ground there,” Eyre said.

“They have a very stable representational board made up exclusively of northerners.”

However Bell said the announcement was a “huge shock because Northlands College isn’t who we initially wanted to be partnered up with.” She explained the government had indicated that NORTEP’s council would choose their new home.

“We did choose the Gabriel Dumont Institute,” Bell said in an interview before Thursday’s protest walk.

“Then the government turns around and doesn’t even take that into consideration.”

READ MORE: Options being assessed for NORTEP transition plan in northern Saskatchewan

Last August the province said in a press release that “the NORTEP Council will lead consultations,” and “provide recommendations to the Ministry of Advanced Education.”

“The intention always was to take into account their recommendation,” Eyre said Wednesday.

“NORTEP also acknowledged that, that was always the point, that they would submit their recommendation and the ultimate decision would lie here.”

READ MORE: Sask. gov’t to work with NORTEP council as post-secondary overlap is eliminated

Bell said the student’s main concern with the province’s decision was around the quality of education they may receive at Northlands College.

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“A lot of the faculty and staff will not be transferred over to Northlands College because they have their own instructors,” Bell said.

“What’s going to happen to our instructors that have been with us since day one?”

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