28 Oct 2019

The entire world is a classroom, and every person is a lifelong learner.

For award-winning educator and PhD candidate Belinda Daniels, this understanding of education came to her at a young age. Her grandparents raised her on Sturgeon Lake First Nation, where her childhood had no walls.

“As a child, I received so much informal learning,” says Belinda. “My grandparents taught me nehiyaw ways of knowing, being, and doing. They taught me nehiyaw traditions along with land education. I honour them as my first teachers.”

To attend high school, she moved to Saskatoon. This is where her formal education began with indifference. Learning to navigate this new system was a challenge. Everything was so different and difficult than what she was used to and how she was taught back home.

 “So often I was questioned about what knowledge I had,” says Belinda. “English wasn’t my first language, as I heard Cree as child, but spoke a non-standard dialect of English, and I struggled to understand how mainstream education worked. There was a lot of discrimination, bias, and racism embedded within the system along with its curricula. My history was not explored or shared.”

These early learning experiences sparked something in Belinda. Now, as an educator and lifelong learner, she works to bridge the gap. Her experiences drive her to make education more accessible to all people. She desires a better education system because she believes education, if done with Indigenous leadership has the power to change lives and change the world.

“It’s so important for young people to pursue their education,” says Belinda. “But it’s important for young people, especially Indigenous youth or those from another culture, to remember who they are and where they are from and that this is their world too.”

And parents play a huge role in encouraging this pursuit of learning in their children.

“We are our children’s first teachers, their role models,” says Belinda. “We need to be involved with their education, and to be present and active in their learning. We can help them overcome barriers and be successful.”

One of the biggest barriers is cost. Tuition is expensive, and this expense is prohibitive for many young people.

“Saving for your child’s education is so important, even if it’s not easy,” says Belinda. “I spoke with a financial planner, did a lot of research, and reached out to supportive friends and family. When my children graduated, the thought I had put into their future meant they were able to access funds to get them set up for success.”

Knowing where to start can be challenging, and Belinda believes that READ Saskatoon helps to bridge an important gap.

“READ Saskatoon shares stories from people of different backgrounds,” says Belinda. “Through their work, they share what education is and can be, and can give people confidence on the financial side of things. Our finances affect our lives, so this knowledge is crucial to navigate the world.”

Belinda understands that parents are often facing many barriers themselves and paving a way for their children can feel like an impossible struggle. But the power of education, both informal and formal, can move parents to do the best for their children.

“We are all still learning, and we are all worth the effort,” says Belinda. “Our children are sacred. They should be treated as such, cared for as such, and taught the very best of what we know, it is our job to prepare our children.”

-Belinda Daniels


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