June 14, 2013 - 6:00 AM
VERNON — A unique school program has been cancelled and despite the efforts of a former student to bring it back, the district says there's nothing it can do.
To Anita Kajla, Global Education is more than just a class. It's a life lesson. Conceived about a decade ago by two North Okanagan teachers passionate about bringing something different to the school system, Global Ed is a full semester 16 credit grade 11 program run out of Clarence Fulton Secondary but open to students in all of School District 22. While a student is enrolled in GLobal Ed, they earn credits for Physical Education, English, Civics, Independent Directed Studies and Global Education. The course takes up their full school day for the entire semester.
Much of the course is spent outside the classroom, volunteering in the Vernon community and abroad with a "real life learning" approach. The class travels to an orphanage in Nicaragua for three weeks of the year, learning what life is like outside of what they're used to.
"It's hands on constantly," Kajla says. "Instead of learning about poverty, or something, you're out meeting homeless people and volunteering at shelters."
Before Global Ed, Kajla wasn't very interested in school. Coming from an East Indian family, she says her siblings were mostly into math and sciences. It took some convincing to get her parents on board.
"It's a pretty different kind of course," she says. "We sat in a circle in class and didn't have a lot of essays."
Instead, she was out in the community, meeting people from various non-profit organizations, the City of Vernon, and making connections with people.
"I had never wanted to be at school so much in my entire life," she says.
Which is why—following a return trip back to Canada from Nicaragua as a chaperone—when she heard that the class was being cancelled, she was shocked.
Kajla, now 21-years-old, well-travelled and active in her community, is lobbying the school district to let her make a presentation at the next board meeting, June 26.
"By cancelling it, they're skipping a whole generation of kids that could have made a difference," Kajla says. "They're denying the students that wanted to take it a huge opportunity."
Malcolm Reed, principal at Clarence Fulton, says there simply wasn't enough enrolment to justify offering the course. "We had extremely low interest from our grade tens this year," he said.
The course is opened up to Fulton students first, and if there's room, students from other high schools in the district are given a chance to apply as well.
"There's no denying it's a wonderful program," Reed says. "We always offer more courses than we end up running. We have a smaller student population than we used to and that has an impact on the courses we have."
He says the school extended the application deadline, but there still wasn't enough enrolment. "There were names coming in from other schools, but not a lot."
He says the course will be offered again next year but "we can't force kids to take it."
Global Ed teacher Murray Sasges says running the course has always been a challenge, but for different reasons.
"The course doesn't fit inside the rigid box of the school system," Sasges says. "Anything not rows of desks is tough to make happen."
Sasges believes more time should have been given to let enrolment come in. "There's certainly a classful of kids that would have taken it."
Despite support from the wider Vernon community, Sasges says the school board was never fully behind the program.
"I'm incredibly sad, it was a great dream that came true," Sasges says. "I had a fantastic experience over ten Global Ed classes."
While it may be too late to save the course for this year, Kajla at least wants people to know what's being lost. She says the cancellation has been pretty "hush-hush" and wants to spread the word about a course that changed her life.
"What I really want is for people to know the value of Global Ed and what they're taking away from the students and our community," she says. "It made me realize who I was and that I can make a difference in the world."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230. Follow on Twitter @charhelston
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013