Muslim school taking time to get up and running

Plans to establish a secondary boarding Muslim school for boys in South Dunedin have had another setback.

The Al-Noor Charitable Trust is trying to be selected as a Ministry of education partnership school.

The proposed school would be exclusively for boy boarders, with a capacity for 100 students in Year 11 to Year 13 groups.

The school is to be established on the site of the former St Patrick’s Primary School site.

Classrooms on the premises are already being used as an early childhood education service for the Dunedin Muslim community.

Partnership schools have been generally referred to as charter schools.

Partnership Schools are a type of school that bring together education, the business sector and community groups to set up a school.

The Government has established a small number of Partnership Schools to target students who are underachieving in the State and State-integrated system.

The first Partnership Schools opened in 2014.

“When we applied last time, our education plan was scored low by the Ministry of Education,” said Trust chairman Dr Mohammad Alayan.

We did not have the best education plan, because we are not specialists in this field [creating applications].

The trust planned to submit another application in the latest round with the help of an education consultant, but was unable to find a consultant to work on its application before the October 31 deadline.

An-Nur Kiwi Academy would be the third Muslim school in New Zealand, and the first outside of Auckland.

Al Madinah School, founded (1992) and Zayed College for Girls (2001), both based in Auckland are the other two Muslim schools in New Zealand.

Plans were originally made for an academy in Christchurch, but shelved after the 22 February 2011 Earthquake.

Al-Noor’s original plan for the school in Christchurch outlined motivations for an exclusively Islamic school.

Alayan said that the Academy woud teach New Zealand Curriculum, with about 20 staff, qualified in Arabic and Islam.

It intended to “give Muslim children an atmosphere in which they can grow and excel,” citing educational research that has established connections between academic success and familiar environments.

It further suggested that secular state schools pressure Muslim children to adopt haram values in such areas as the theory of evolution, extra-marital sex, and alcohol.

Despite truncating these aspects of the regular New Zealand curriculum, Al-Noor said it was dedicated to establishing a connection with the wider New Zealand community.

The plan pledged to “keep the windows to the larger NZ society wide open,” welcoming its neighbouring schools, non-Muslim staff, and community as a whole.

When the intention to establish school was first raised two years ago offensive graffiti appeared on the site.

Offensive comments were made on the Otago Daily Times website

Taneli Kukkonen, a senior lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Otago, was enthusiastic for an Islamic school but urged correct implementation. “A small Muslim school would face all the problems of any small new school,” he warned.

He supports Al-Nur Kiwi Academy’s motto of “all pupils welcome,” and hopes the school will help foster a greater understanding of Islam within Dunedin. “It testifies to growing self-awareness in the Muslim community.”


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