By Mariam Mazhar
Recently there was an outrage by Muslim Parents on the event of ‘Pink Day’ observed in Public schools across GTA. I saw mixed emotions and feelings on this issue among my friends and on social media. Some of these discussions made me reflect on my decision to send my kids to a Public School instead of a Private Islamic School.
Rise in numbers
We are blessed to have so many Islamic schools in the country. In GTA alone we have seen a substantial growth of these establishments in the last 5-10 years. Look around and there will be one close to where you live. There are more than 25 Islamic schools across GTA alone, some are co-ed and some offer segregated environs for just boys or girls. Some of them are till middle school and some of them are high schools. Some of the Islamic schools have just Hifz programs for children, while most of them follow Ontario Curriculum with a focus on Islamic teachings, including Arabic language, Dua supplications and Islamic history.
Some of these schools provide bussing as well as before and after school programs. These services come at an extra cost, but it makes parents’ lives much easier and stress free.
Focus on Deen
Islamic schools are private enterprises with a fee, mostly they rely on donations. Most of these schools also have extracurricular activities that one sees in Public Schools. They have special events during Ramadan and on Eid, tournaments and fund raisers are held. Soccer, art and science clubs are also an active part of the school fabric.
Benefits of Islamic Schooling
These schools provide positive Islamic environment free from drugs, sex and violence and thus give ensure a peace of mind for us as parents. Young kids and teenagers get to mingle with like-minded people and develop friendship, building stronger social ties with the fellow Muslims.
Things to consider when going Private
While they provide a wholesome Islamic environment and education, these schools are not affordable by many families. When compared to Public School where your child gets free education, a person will think twice about the affordability of these schools, especially if the family is a new immigrant or still struggling to get settled in the country. Apart from tuition fee, if your child needs bussing, and that’s an extra cost. I have seen families desperately trying to figure out pick and drop arrangements and most of them end up paying extra dollars every month.
Money and Management Issues
Unfortunately most of these schools are disorganized, have poor management and cultural clashes among themselves. They rely on donations and ‘good intentions’ by the staff. Staff is hired at very low salary and results in inconsistency and unstable learning environment.
When it comes to testing our kids, addressing learning issues and cognitive development, many public schools are setting some amazing trends. Islamic schools are not able to offer the same resources for a simple reason: money. It will take few more years for Private Islamic schools to come to similar standards and compete with Public Schools.
Apart from some basic argument, it makes me wonder how tolerant a child will be after leaving Islamic School System? Will he not get a cultural shock? I’ve seen many kids come out of Islamic schools incubated and unable to deal with the drama that awaits them in High School and at the campus.
I have seen many children who went to Islamic Schools and cannot interact or build relations with their non-Muslim neighbors. What happens to them n in the long term?
I realize the un-questioned need of Islamic environment and tarbiah but that can be done at home too. Islamic and Quranic education can be obtained at after school programs, online and at weekend schools.
Role of Parents in Tarbiah
By sending our child to Islamic school our role as Muslim parent does not lessen or diminish. We ask schools to perform a task that we as parents are supposed to perform. Schools are not supposed to be substitutes for parental responsibilities. The public school is not the reason for a Muslim kid getting into drugs, alcohol and wild dating. The reason is that the parents did not focus on right tarbiah.
Canada is a free country where every faith, culture, cast and lifestyle is respected and celebrated. We are lucky to be in a country where we can practice our beliefs freely. Now it is our duty to take our kids to the mosque, Islamic gatherings and events so that they get to interact with other Muslim brothers and sisters.
I do think that an Islamic environment that incorporates all the principles of Islam is an answer to our problems as Muslim parents. An Islamic School is not and cannot be the do-all in such circumstances.
About the Author:
Mariam Mazhar is a teacher by profession with a love for kids, cakes and creative writing.