On March 13 in Mabou, Premier Iain Rankin (centre) announced $1.92 million in funding to transform the former St. Joseph’s Convent and Renewal Centre into a satellite campus called Beinn Mhàbu.

MABOU: The president of the Gaelic College says the establishment of Beinn Mhàbu, a satellite campus that will be located in the village of Mabou, will be an absolute game changer, not only for the local region, but for the entire Gaelic community of Nova Scotia.

Rodney MacDonald indicated they are excited about the potential and people are going to see a big change in the community of Mabou as it will transform into a year-round destination.

“Beinn Mhàbu will ensure that Gaelic culture, history, language and music is a central focus in its programming,” MacDonald told The Reporter. “It will provide an opportunity for our students in their own local region, it will provide an opportunity for our Gaelic heritage, language and culture to be showcased from an education perspective.”

Premier Iain Rankin announced on March 13 the province would be investing $1.92 million to transform the former St. Joseph’s Convent and Renewal Centre into a modern day facility called Beinn Mhàbu, or Mabou Hill College.

The 32,000-square foot building, which includes a dining area, kitchen, small gymnasium, elevator and 37 bedrooms, was built in 1952 and will see upgrades in accommodations, the kitchen and with technology.

Rankin advised despite being celebrated, the Gaelic language, culture and identity need nurturing to thrive in Nova Scotia.

“This investment will help in promoting, preserving and perpetuating Gaelic language, culture and identity,” Rankin said. “This builds on the significant work of Gaelic renewal happening at the college, on the island and in communities.”

The campus’ offerings will include a foundation year program featuring broad-based course options, including Gaelic culture and history, an executive certificate in cultural organizations and event management, and an executive certificate in music and ethnomusicology.

Students will receive credit recognition for courses through Cape Breton University.

MacDonald advised Beinn Mhàbu, which will have students living on-campus from September to April with the inaugural first class scheduled for 2022, will also provide seasonal accommodations during the peak tourism season.

“Mabou Hill College will be an invaluable addition to the cultural infrastructure of Nova Scotia and another thread in the cultural fabric that we are weaving together,” Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage Suzanne Lohnes-Croft said. “This is another confident step into the future for the Gaelic College.”

MacDonald also highlighted how Beinn Mhàbu, North America’s first Gaelic-medium school beginning at the primary level, will additionally be home to artists-in-residence, and a Gaelic-based internet radio station with podcasts, traditional music and student showcases.

“We know we need more opportunities for people to learn about their history, to learn about their culture, there’s not enough being done today in that regard,” he said. “And we need to fill that void, and we plan to do so. People deserve to know about their history.”

MacDonald indicated between 800 and 900 students access their programs each year, with 70 per cent of their adult learners coming from outside Atlantic Canada, while 70 per cent of their younger students come from within Nova Scotia.

Students may come to the Gaelic College for a week in the summer, while some people complete online courses with them, while others may participate in courses like their immersion program where they receive credit for a full university course in four weeks.

“That was something that didn’t exist on our site 10 years ago. We’ve grown in the last 10 years without question quite significantly,” MacDonald said. “There is a real thirst for students to learn about Gaelic culture. It’s been a challenging year for all, and this is a real bright spot going into 2021.”