Maggie MacDonnell of Quebec, and a member of Education International’s Quebec affiliate, CSQ, was selected from among 20,000 nominees worldwide at the Varkey Foundation’s Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.
MacDonnell, a teacher in a fly-in Inuit village called Salluit, in the Canadian Arctic was recognised with the one million dollar prize at the annual education conference for her efforts in ‘transforming her community.’
With a population of just over 1,300, Salluit, the second northernmost Inuit community in Quebec, cannot be reached by road, only by air. In winter temperatures are minus 25C. There were six suicides in 2015, all affecting young males between the ages of 18 and 25. Each of them had a profound impact on MacDonnell.
“As a teacher, when I come to school the morning after there is an empty desk in that classroom. There is stillness and silence,” she said during her acceptance remarks. “Thank you for bringing global attention to them,” she added.
MacDonnell grew up in rural Nova Scotia and after completing her Bachelors degree, spent five years volunteering and working in Sub Saharan Africa, largely in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention. After completing her Masters degree she found her country was beginning to wake up to the decades of abuse that Canadian Indigenous people have lived through, including assaults on the environment and enormous economic and social inequality.
"We are very proud of the honour given to Maggie McDonnell,” said Daniel B. Lafrenière, the CSQ Secretary-Treasurer and Executive Board Member of Education International (EI). “Her passion, drive and commitment are characteristics that she was able to offer the youth of Northern Quebec.”
A member of the CSQ affiliate the Association des employés du nord québécois, MacDonnell intends to use the money to establish an NGO.
The award was set up three years ago by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. The prize is paid in instalments and requires the winner to remain a teacher for at least five years