Islamic School In Canberra – Taqwa School has opened in Spence after a long battle for enrollment, with a former high school teacher in Canberra being hired as its new principal.
Pauline Griffiths, eager to open in peace under the mounting tension, said the school had a “lovely family atmosphere”.
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The school began its first semester with the rest of the area in early February, but moved to a new temporary campus on Monday.
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Rather than hold back tears, Hassan Warsi, chairman of the school board, said his two children Maryam (5) and Abdullah (6) were very excited on their first day.
“They made some really witty comments, I listened to them as I drove to school. They are very excited and they really like their new temporary campus,” he said.
The Spence site will house the school’s first 30 students, while Muslims in Gungahlin and Belconnen are raising money to build a permanent Islamic school in Gungahlin.
“This is a community school, a demand-driven school and that’s where the funds come from,” says Pak Warsi.
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“Students can identify with their culture, that’s what the school will give them, while integrating with the Australian culture,” he said.
Mr Warsi said the school had been a long time in the making and they had learned a lot since they were initially rejected last year after a critical review.
The review said the school’s application failed to demonstrate its feasibility, took full account of personnel protection and qualification procedures, and included a rap on books for copying employment contracts from other schools.
A new application for school enrollment was submitted by Youth Muslim Canberra (CMY) and was approved late last year.
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“We learned a lot, not just about the process. We showed that we did much better the second time we came,” said Pak Warsi.
Dr. Griffiths spent eight years with Canberra Grammar and Daramalan College and is passionate about multicultural schools.
“I am always interested in starting a new school so that we can create the right learning environment for students.
“I am very committed to multicultural learning and globalization is very interesting to me. It’s great to have such diverse students,” he says.
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Dr. Griffiths said many students were ESL students from countries such as Afghanistan, Sudan and Pakistan, and that English could be their second, third or fourth language.
“Eventually it will be a K-12 school and the kids will learn Arabic thoroughly,” he said.
Dr Griffiths says the name of the school, Taqwa, means you’re always a good person, even if people don’t notice you. The board of the Islamic School of Canberra has denounced the “Islamophobic” federal government and warned it would close in weeks with no transition. funding to address them through ongoing departmental reviews.
Weston’s school funding was suspended on June 30 due to concerns over independence, governance and finances, particularly over its relationship with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
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The school board filed documentation last month in support of its latest bid to recover $1 million.
But a board spokesperson said that without funding, while the federal government reviews submissions, schools are likely to close within weeks.
For Kayis Ablahd, a teacher at the Islamic School in Canberra and her second-grade students, it is normal practice. Photo: Karleen Minney
“Since [our] school is under review, it is only fair and reasonable to ask that the funds go through until you have completed your assessment and a decision has been made, and if that fails, at least continue funding until the end of the school year,” the spokesperson said.
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A council spokesman said the school was encouraged by the recent federal court decision to grant Sydney’s Malek Fahd Islamic School a monthly payment as it fights to restore long-term federal funding.
Canberra’s Islamic school, with more than 200 students from kindergarten to 7th grade, lost money for the first time last year.
The Islamic School of Canberra appealed to the federal government for the loss of their money. Teacher Adama Konda, left, and Principal David Johns Photo: Karleen Minney
The department discovered “serious non-compliance issues” related to the school’s financial management and governance and then accused the board of failing to provide complete and accurate information during various offers to refund the money.
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It is clear that the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils is in talks with three groups interested in taking over the leases and debts of the Canberra Islamic Schools in an effort to increase its chances with the government.
The Islamic College of South Australia, which also lost its federal funding, was bought by the Australian Islamic College of Perth last month.
A city spokesperson said funding is a priority. The Islamic School of Canberra has increased its fees from $443 per semester to $600 for staff salaries, utilities and resources.
In addition, the school will “customize” its computers and cleaning program and seek voluntary community support for both. Two teachers just quit.
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“The increased fees, maintenance (and hopefully) increased enrollment along with the prompt payment of fees will help our school continue and I ask you all to bear this in mind.”
A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Education said the department was conducting a “thorough assessment” of the school situation in Canberra and could not provide a timetable for when that would be completed.
“The department understands the impact the decision to withdraw will have on the school community and will make a decision in due course to reassure families and schools,” he said.
A school board spokesman said the school had become a “kid-beater” for the Department of Education, arguing that the ongoing assessment was Islamophobic, advising taxpayers not to waste the time and money spent investigating. – to question compliant independent schools.
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“The department really needs to consider how all this tax money is being spent for political gain, I might add,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said: “To receive funds from the Commonwealth, all school authorities across Australia must have sound financial governance and management arrangements, and ensure that these funds are used for the benefit of the school in providing school fees. The Canberra Islamic Schools (ISC) board confirmed on May 26, 2016 and met the parents on Saturday, June 18 to reassure them that the school is making progress to maintain its viability while continuing to gain independence from AFIC.
Azra Khan, chairman of the new board, said the board members have no affiliation with AFIC and that all members are based in Canberra. The board of school staff managed to meet quickly with ACT’s Minister of Education and Training, Mr Shane Rattenbury, and made two comments in the past two weeks. One is to reply to the ACT government that the school is financially viable with or without Commonwealth funding and therefore current enrollment should remain until the end of the year and second, the federal government should appeal its decision to to stop funding.
According to Ms Khan, these are important steps, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
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“We will now work with both agencies to address any gaps and provide all the information they need,” he said.
The new board also met with staff and the Association of Parents and Friends (PFA-ISC) to build trust between all parties as schools negotiate to get out of the crisis.
Meanwhile, the school is seeking the principal position immediately following the resignation of current principal Susan Christiansen, which will be completed at the end of term two. Temporary arrangements are scheduled until the position is filled. With less than a month to go before Commonwealth funds dry up, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has cut ties with the Islamic School of Canberra over another school harassing its students.
The school has about two weeks to find $1.5 million to proceed after the move of the embattled federation, which operates six Islamic schools across the country.
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Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said Canberra’s Islamic School had failed to address the problem satisfactorily and as a result robbed more than $1 million in Commonwealth funding, cutting the future of more than 200 students was questioned.
The school’s director, Mohammed Berjaoui, chairman of the Islamic Council of Canberra, said the AFIC board of directors – including himself – has decided to amend the school’s constitution to allow control of the school’s finances on 5 handed over to the school board.
But the motion was quashed the next day, after the executive committee was dissolved and an interim committee was put in its place — an action they challenged in court.
“The old guard said schools should stay with AFIC, the government can’t force anything on us, this is our school, we built this school, the government has no right to tell us who to have on the board or to constitution,” he said.
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