Ukrainian bilingual enrolment withers



Ukrainian bilingual enrolment withers
Programs need to be promoted: advocate

By: Nick Martin
Winnipeg Free Press

5/04/2010 1:00 AM | Comments: 1
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HOW do you say “marketing” in Ukrainian?

Susan Zuk sure knows, and she’d like a lot more Manitoba kids to get the opportunity to learn how too.

Fewer than 600 kids in 10 schools in six school divisions are registered in Ukrainian bilingual programs, a number that’s been declining.

Registration is down sharply in Winnipeg School Division, where enrolment at Ralph Brown School has dropped in a decade to 72 from 161. At Smith Jackson School in Dauphin, numbers have plummeted one-third in four years and have trustees close to thinking about whether to continue.

“It’s a fabulous program,” says Zuk, president of Manitoba Parents for a Ukrainian Education (MPUE). “It’s an incredible program for learning, for expanding the brain.”

Her own children learn English, French and Ukrainian, the latter involving also learning the cyrillic alphabet, she said.

But Zuk’s family only heard about the program from friends at a social, she said. “One thing I find is the marketing of the program — a lot of young families don’t know the program exists. You just have to tell people about it.”

Immigration could give an impetus to enrolment, Zuk said. All enrolment is declining throughout Manitoba, she argued, though the drop at Ralph Brown and in Dauphin is far sharper than the general decline in birth rate.

Seven years ago, MPUE was part of a coalition of 25 groups which first asked Winnipeg School Division and then Seven Oaks School Division for a Ukrainian bilingual high school, but couldn’t produce the numbers necessary to get a school off the ground.

WSD board chairwoman Jackie Sneesby said her board has no concerns about continuing Ukrainian bilingual at Ralph Brown, and may look at promoting it.

“The whole demographic of the neighbourhood has changed. The neighbourhood is a lot more diverse now,” Sneesby said.

She wouldn’t speculate on the long-term impact of a bitter parent council rift at Ralph Brown several years ago. The dispute pitted parents of kids in Ukrainian bilingual against parents of English-stream kids and the school’s administration, forcing the division to appoint a mediator and hold new elections for parent council executives.

Out in Dauphin, “Concern would be an appropriate term. The trend has been consistently going down over the last several years,” said Mountain View School Division superintendent Jack Sullivan. “The viability of the program, if it goes much further, is in question.

“The demand for Ukrainian bilingual seems to be weakening. Most certainly, we have changing demographics,” said Sullivan, who said enrolment in middle years is especially weak. A few years ago, “There was talk in Dauphin about continuing the program into high school, but the numbers didn’t warrant it.”

“Our numbers are quite healthy,” with more than 100 students at R.F. Morrison School, said Seven Oaks School Division superintendent Brian O’Leary. Another 29 middle-years students take Ukrainian as a heritage language class at H.C. Avery School.

Sunrise School Division superintendent Paul Magnan said that there’s also been talk of a high school program in Oakbank, but the proponents haven’t been able to produce enough numbers.

There are 74 kids in kindergarten to Grade 5 at Oakbank Elementary, 30 in Springfield Middle School Grades 6 to 8, he said.

Lord Selkirk School Division has had Ukrainian bilingual for 30 years in East Selkirk, where there’s a Ukrainian museum in Happy Thoughts School and strong cultural support from the community, said superintendent Gail Bagnall.

There are 15 Ukrainian bilingual students in kindergarten, Bagnall said. “The board would like it to be more, but we’re prepared to support it.”

Zuk said all the kids in Ukrainian bilingual get together each year for a field trip. “All the schools are recording a CD of folk songs — we’re celebrating 30 years of the program.”

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Here are the numbers
The numbers on Ukrainian bilingual enrolment in Manitoba:
Winnipeg School Division: 72 kids at Ralph Brown School, down from 161 a decade ago
Seven Oaks: about 100 in R.F. Morrison School, steady
River East Transcona: 120 students in three schools, fluctuated between 86 and 142 in the last seven years
Mountain View: 85 in one Dauphin School, down from 125 four years ago Sunrise: 104 students in two Oakbank schools, down slightly in recent years
Lord Selkirk: 102 students in two East Selkirk schools, down from 115 seven years ago

Information about Manitoba Parents for Ukrainian Education can be found at mpue.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2010 B1

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