Northern News Services
Lilian Nawdlak, helped by her mother Rosie, cuts the ribbon on the opening of the new daycare centre. - Nathan VanderKlippe/NNSL photo
March 24, 2000, she gave birth to baby Natasha. The birth and pregnancy were unexpected, but they didn't shake Rita's determination to finish high school.
"I just have the will to finish high school," she said. "It's really important to me because in my future I want to get a good job and go back to school -- to college or university."
But she needed help from the child's father and relatives. The opening of a school daycare program was also critical when she returned to finish Grade 12 in September. The 18-year-old hopes to graduate this month.
Attagoyuk high school principal Calvin Kippenhuck said schools need to find ways to girls with babies stay in school.
"It's just becoming a reality right now," said Kippenhuck. "We have a number of students with no babysitting services at home, so they end up not coming to school."
Three years in works
Rita is one of seven teen moms benefiting from the school daycare. It was officially opened Nov. 24.
Space for childcare was allotted when the high school was built in 1998, after the old building burned down. But without adequate equipment and operating funding, the space lay unused.
Now, with money from the government of Nunavut and Kakiavak Corp., among others, the centre has $26,000 in capital and enough money to operate at $10,000 a month.
The childcare is staffed by three community members, and has enough space for six babies and four toddlers. Students get priority, but extra spaces can be filled by babies from the outside community, who have a 20-space town childcare facility at their disposal.
"As a grandmother, it's important that grandparents do not end up raising another family," said Lois Mike, one of the project's key fundraisers and organizers. "The other concern is that children get the best care that the mother can't give when she is away from the child."
The GN provides full childcare funding for unsupported students. Those with employed partners receive 50 per cent support from Kakiavak, meaning they must pay $15 per full-day out of pocket.
Mike said her labours on the daycare centre won't be in vain if she helps just one person.
"If I could make a difference for just one grandmother, it's worth it," she said.
As for Rita, the centre makes attending classes a little easier. She stops by occasionally to check on her baby -- make sure she's behaving.
"It's really good because it gets a lot of teenaged moms a good chance to finish high school," she says. "(Attending class) is a lot easier now."