Sunday, 26 February 2017

What makes a school successful?

When schools pop up like frogs in monsoon, it becomes imperative for all the stakeholders of schools to understand 'What makes a school successful?'

Before we get to the crux of the topic, let us first reflect:

Are we preparing our children to face the real world by expecting luxury at schools?
Why do hundreds of articles in recent times complain about pampered,selfish despots being prepared in the air conditioned classrooms of schools, unfit to face any difficulty/reality when they step into the real world?  'So many young adults today are selfish monsters - and we parents are to blame,' says YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN

As parents, what is more important to us? Learning or Lavishness? Character or Knowledge? Mastery or Marks?

What makes a school successful ?
Is it the school's fancy infrastructure/ fancy interiors?
Is it just the school's qualified teachers?

Is the culture and learning of a school(good school practices teamed with involved staff and parents) of any importance at all in concluding its success?

Dr Mansoor Durrani(Chairman - Eastern Public School) says "Quality schools are not built on the backs of granite floors, sleek furniture, or Machintosh machines. If they were, then the rich middle-eastern countries would've now produced world class intellectuals. Infrastructure is important, but world-class schools are built on the backs of world class teams(parents,management,staff and learners)!". And I couldn't agree more after visiting and seeing the simple, economical and need-based infrastructure of the Eastern Public School in Bhopal run by a committed, world-class team.

We always have fancy infrastructure/ fancy interiors or qualified teachers as benchmarks on our minds when we think of successful schools. But, is this conclusion wise?
A Study conducted by Azim Premji Foundation of Wipro fame concludes otherwise.
Better infrastructure or better qualified teachers by themselves don’t determine success at schools.
To know how the commitment of teachers and parents can make or break a school and to know what really contributes to the making of a successful school, go through the Azim Premji Foundation Study attached below.

What makes a school successful? A Study by Azim Premji Foundation

Happy reading and  reflecting! 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Giving and how? - Iqranians' Ramadan Charity Week Achievement

"Millions of trees are accidentally planted by squirrels - who bury nuts, then forget where they hid them. Do good and forget. It'll grow someday" - Zakia Usmani

A visit to the Government school and the differently abled school in DJ Hall
Last Ramadan Iqra witnessed a phenomenal achievement. Alhumdulillah. Our little Iqranians managed to touch many lives by practicing the Sunnah of giving in tandem with our yearly Ramadan Charity Week Program at Iqra International School. The power of working collectively for a common good was seen in the way every Iqranian (student, staff, parent and management) came together to achieve this Sunnah.

Distributing food kits and counting their blessings by walking through the street of DJ Halli
A hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says that a voice was once heard commanding a cloud to irrigate a man’s garden. When the man was asked what he did with the garden, he replied that he estimated the produce of his garden. Then he distributed one-third to charity, kept one-third for himself and his family, and invested one-third back into the garden.

Tuck Shop Day at Iqra - Ramadan Charity Week 2016
Just like Allah (swt) sent a cloud for this man who gave his produce to the poor, Allah will also provide for us in miraculous and strange ways if we give what we love to seek the pleasure of Allah and in the service of mankind. As the hadith beautifully illustrates, Allah replaces what we give and multiplies it. We will never attain righteousness until we spend what we love, loving for our brothers and sisters what we love for ourselves. Our little Iqranians not only gave away their favourite toys, clothes, a computer, a computer table, pocket money (that they collected throughout the year for this purpose!), specially made notebooks and stationary, but also setup tuck shops and sold eatables to give away the proceeds (not just the profits!) in charity. May Allah replace and multiply their deeds with something even more beautiful for them.

“… and loan Allah a goodly loan. And whatever good you put forward for yourselves - you will find it with Allah. It is better and greater in reward.” [73:20]
All the goods which were purchased with the Ramadan Charity Week proceeds
Giving from what we have been given from The Provider and Owner of everything not only frees us from the disease of want but also reminds us that everything belongs to Allah (swt) and is supposed to be used for the well-being of all of humanity.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Protect yourself from hell-fire even by giving a piece of date as charity.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Giving - All that they collected and purchased throughout the Charity Week during Ramadan 2016
The sacrifice of giving one’s belongings, irrespective of how small, to help those in need is a blessing and means of purifying our souls and wealth. From a drop of water to every blessing, we must never forget that everything is loaned to us for a short period of time.

The true test is the test of giving the given!
“Allah, the Exalted, says, ‘Spend, O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.’” – Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Receiving - The prayers and good wishes of the old and underprivileged
Allah the Almighty promises us that if we train ourselves to give in times of ease and hardship, our sustenance will increase. Giving awakens our souls and triggers genuine concern for the well-being of others. Priority is given to feeding the poor and the needy, as that is one of the best acts in Islam. Therefore, our little Iqranians took the proceeds from the Ramadan Charity Week at Iqra and joined hands with team Yusra(NGO). Together they experienced it by personally visiting and touching the poor lives in the underprivileged DJ Halli.

Giving is deeply imbibed in each and every Iqranian. This is how we inculcate a beautiful Sunnah and nurture the Givers of tomorrow at Iqra! Alhumdulillah. To know more about the amazing things that these little souls did, visit this link http://www.iisb.co/Ramadhan_Iqra_Report.pdf and read through the beautiful reporting done by Team Yusra. May Allah accept and reward the effort of everyone involved.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A Smart Muslimah

Assalaam Alaykum/Peace be upon you, 

I noticed my Grade 6 girls were looking like how Muslimahs should look - Smart! 
Grade 6 girls of Iqra International School
Therefore, I thought I should pen down my thoughts and share my notes from Dr Muhammad Ali's article(The Ideal Muslim Woman and her own self) about why we as Muslim women should stand out of the crowd and why it is so important to not just 'be' smart but to also appear smart in the way we dress (the Ramadan achievement blog which I had committed in my previous blog will follow this one In Shaa Allah). 

But before I began writing, I happened to have a conversation with my friend.

Friend: To be or not to be?
Me: what?
Friend: Smart Muslimah!
Me: why not?
Friend: In Islam aren't women advised to cover themselves up completely? then where is the question of appearing smart? 
Me: Oh doofus! Why can't we be covered up and still appear smart? Does Islam advice us not to appear smart, neat, tidy and presentable??!! 
Friend: Controversial! 
Me: ain't interested. 

On one occasion the Prophet(pbuh) advised his companions:

"You are going to visit your brothers, so repair your saddles and make sure that you are dressed well, so that you will stand out among people like an adornment, for Allah (SWT) does not love ugliness." [Abu Dawud, 4/83, in Kitab al-libas]

Dr Muhammad Ali in his article 'The Ideal Muslim Woman and her own self' states that, to be good examples, worthy of the great message that we bring to humanity, Islam encourages us Muslims to stand out among people, readily distinguishable by our dress, appearance and behavior.

Unkempt and careless appearance, and scruffy clothes and furnishings are forbidden and despised in Islam and were considered to be forms of ugliness by the Prophet(pbuh). In general, Islam encourages us Muslims to stand out among other people and in particular, as Muslimahs we should have a stark difference from other people in our appearance, this speaks volumes about us, our husband, family and children.

No matter how busy we are with our domestic chores and the duties of motherhood, as Muslimahs we should not neglect our appearance. A good appearance is an indication of how well we understand our self, our Islamic identity, and our mission in life. Therefore, we should be keen to look good, without going to extremes. A neat, tidy and clean outward appearance reflects a noble and decent inner character. Our inner nature is not separate from our outward appearance, both of which make up the character of a true Muslimah.

A smart Muslimah is one who strikes a balance between her external appearance and internal nature. We should understand that we are made up of a body, a mind and a soul, and we should give each the attention it deserves, without exaggerating any one of these which would lead to the destruction of the other aspects of our being. By striking this perfect balance, we as Muslimahs will be following the wise guidance of Islam which encourages us to do so.

How can we as Muslimahs achieve this balance between our body, mind and soul?

Our Body
  1. Moderation in food and drink
  2. Exercise regularly
  3. Clean body and clothes 
  4. Take care of mouth and teeth
  5. Take care of hair
  6. Good Appearance
  7. Do not go to extremes of beautification
It is not unknown to any researcher, of whatever era or country the fact that this teaching which encourages cleanliness and bathing, came fifteen hundred years ago, at a time when the world knew nothing of such hygienic habits. A thousand years later, the non-Muslim world had still not reached the level of cleanliness that the Muslims had reached.

In her book Min al-riqq ila'l-sayadah, Samihah A. Wirdi says:

  "There is no need for us to go back to the time of the Crusades in order to know the level of civilization in Europe at that time. We need go back no further than a few hundred years, to the days of the Ottoman Empire, and compare between the Ottomans and the Europeans to see what level the Ottoman civilization had reached.
"In 1624, Prince Brandeboug wrote the following on the invitations to a banquet that he sent to other princes and nobles: Guests are requested not to plunge their hands up to the elbow in the dishes; not to throw food behind them; not to lick their fingers; not to spit on their plates; and not to blow their noses on the edges of the tablecloths."

The author adds:
  "These words clearly indicate the level of civilization, culture, knowledge and manners among the Europeans. At the same time, in another part of Europe, the situation was not much different. In the palace of the King of England (George I), the ugly smell emanating from the persons of the King and his family overpowered the grandeur of their fine, lace-edged French clothes. This is what was happening in Europe. Meanwhile in Istanbul, the seat of the khilafah, it is well-known that the European ambassadors who were authorized by the Ottoman state be thrown into baths before they could approach the sultan. Sometime around 1730, during the reign of Sultan Ahmad III, when the Ottoman state entered its political and military decline, the wife of the English ambassador in Istanbul, Lady Montague, wrote many letters which were later published, in which she described the level of cleanliness, good manners and high standards among the Muslims. In one of her memoirs she wrote that the Ottoman princess Hafizah had given her a gift of a towel that had been hand-embroidered; she liked it so much that she could not even bear to wipe her mouth with it. The Europeans were particularly astounded by the fact that the Muslims used to wash their hands before and after every meal. It is enough to read the words of the famous English nurse Florence Nightingale, describing English hospitals in the mid-nineteenth century, where she describes how these hospitals were full of squalor, negligence and moral decay, and the wings of these hospitals were full of sick people who could not help answering the call of nature on their beds . . ."[Samihah A. Wirdi, Min al-riqq il'al'sayadah, Damla Yayinevi No. 89, p. 28ff]

Comprehend the great contrast between the refined civilization of Islam and other human civilizations!!!

Our Mind
Grade 6 'Smart Muslimahs' of Iqra International School
  • Taking care of our mind by pursuing knowledge and reading:
  1. The Noble Qur'an properly (with proper tajweed), and understanding its meaning. 
  2. Sciences of hadith
  3. The Seerah of the Prophet (PBUH)
  4. The history of the women of the Sahabah and Tabe'en
  5. Knowledge of fiqh as we need to ensure that our worship and daily dealings are correct
  6. Basic principles of Islam
  7. Muslim women's achievements in the field of knowledge
  • Not being Superstitious
  • Never stop reading and studying
As smart Muslimahs we should understand that reading is the source which supplies our mind with nourishment and knowledge which it needs in order to flourish and grow. Hence, we should not let our household duties and the burdens of motherhood prevent us from extensive reading. No matter how busy we may be with housework or with taking care of our children, we can never stop nourishing our mind with knowledge. We should steal the odd moment, here and there, to sit down with a good book, or a useful magazine, so that we can broaden our horizons with some useful academic, social or literary knowledge, thus increasing our intellectual abilities as we understand that seeking knowledge is a duty required of us by our faith. 
The book i'm hooked onto currently. If you've read 'The Secret' by Rhonda Byrne, you should read this one! It's far better.
Our Soul

As Muslimahs we should not neglect to polish our soul through worship, dhikr, and reading the Qur'an

•Perform acts of worship regularly and purify our soul
•Keep company with righteous people and join religious gatherings
•Frequently repeat dua's and supplications
My favorite Smart Muslimah from this era! 
                                                                                                                                                                These are very important aspects of being a Muslimah.  A Smart Muslimah!
Therefore, I shall be addressing this in great detail with my ladies at Iqra during our Monthly Saturday meeting In Shaa Allah. 

May Allah help me and all the others to practice what we preach as we are all striving every day to be better examples of being a Muslim. May Allah ease it for us. 

P.S The 'friend' in the conversation mentioned at the beginning of this blog is my mind! :) 

Lots of duas,

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Independent Iqranian

Assalaam Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

Here's a sneak peek into the Montessori section of Iqra Juinors. Its just the end of the first week at the new premise of Iqra Juniors, yet did you notice what I noticed? Look how settled, engrossed and disciplined they are! MashaAllah TabarakAllah. Visible confidence in every Iqranian, Alhumdulillah.

This is the Montessori way! :)

I can never thank Allah enough for guiding me to make the right choices for Iqra. Also, I can never thank the parents of Iqra enough for trusting in what we began - Islamic Montessori.

Here are some famous personalities educated at Montessori schools:

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin – founders of Google
  • Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon.com
  • Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis – former first lady (John F. Kennedy)
  • Prince William and Prince Harry (now Prince George as well)
  • T. Berry Brazelton – pediatrician and author 
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Nobel Prize winner for Literature
  • Katherine Graham – ex-owner of the Washington Post
  • Anne Frank – author, diarist from World War II

Curious to see the rest of the Montessori and the other blocks(Nursery,LKG,UKG) at the new premise of Iqra Juniors? Stay tuned!

My diligent and hardworking team is tirelessly working every day to create beautiful learning spaces for your little ones. Although they are all set, they always feel there is something better that can be done(sigh!). Therefore, work will always be in progress at Iqra and In Shaa Allah after the Ramadan break we will surprise our little ones with an even better home away from home.

A walk through a changed and grown IIS premise is what's next on my mind. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and avoid missing out on all the magic happening at Iqra! :)

My next blog? A huge achievement at Iqra this Ramadan! Stay tuned....

I hate ending without a little reading and a few videos for you all. And so, here you go a little about Montessori and the Independence in a Montessori Environment. Happy reading! :)

Lots of duas,
Yours in the service of Islam

Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) is talking education, mentioning that Montessori schools are doing a better job than most in teaching independent thinking – watch from 11:20, or the whole interview – it’s worth it!

    Sergey Brin and Larry Page (founders of Google) both attended Montessori preschool and both highlight that it was Montessori education that contributed to their independent thinking and success.

More from Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google) on the role of Montessori education in his and Larry Page’s life. 
(Source: http://www.dailymontessori.com/montessori-questions-answers/famous-montessori-educated-people/)

Independence in a Montessori Environment

“Growth and psychic development are therefore guided by: the absorbent mind, the nebulae and the sensitive periods, with their respective mechanisms. It is these that are hereditary and characteristic of the human species. But the promise they hold can only be fulfilled through the experience of free activity conducted in the environment.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 96)

“Independence is not a static condition; it is a continuous conquest, and in order to reach not only freedom, but also strength, and the perfecting on one’s powers, it is necessary to follow this path of unremitting toil.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 90)

“The child seeks for independence by means of work; an independence of body and mind.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 91)

“We must clearly understand that when we give the child freedom and independence, we are giving freedom to a worker already braced for action, who cannot live without working and being active.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 91.)

“Except when he has regressive tendencies, the child’s nature is to aim directly and energetically at functional independence.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 83)

“The child’s conquest of independence begins with his first introduction to life. While he is developing, he perfects himself and overcomes every obstacle that he finds in his path. A vital force is active within him, and this guides his efforts towards their goal. It is a force called the ‘horme’, by Sir Percy Nunn.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 83).

“The child’s conquests of independence are the basic steps in what is called his ‘natural development’.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 84)

“At birth, the child leaves a person – his mother’s womb – and this makes him independent of her bodily functions. The baby is next endowed with an urge, or need, to face the out world and to absorb it. We might say that he is born with ‘the psychology of world conquest.’ By absorbing what he finds about him, he forms his own personality.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 84)

“The child can only develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experience ‘work’.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 7, p. 88)

“Learning to speak, therefore, and the power it brings of intelligent converse with others, is a most impressive further step along the path of independence … Learning to walk is especially significant, not only because it is supremely complex, but because it is done in the first year of life.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 86)

“… the first thing his education demands is the provision of an environment in which he can develop the powers given him by nature. This does not mean just to amuse him and let him do what he likes. But it does mean that we have to adjust our minds to doing a work of collaboration with nature, to being obedient to one of her laws, the law which decrees that development comes from environmental experience.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 89)

“Happiness is not the whole aim of education. A man must be independent in his powers and character; able to work and assert his mastery over all that depends on him.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 170)

“Under the urge of nature and according to the laws of development, though not understood by the adult, the child is obliged to be serious about two fundamental things … the first is the love of activity… The second fundamental thing is independence.” (What You Should Know About Your Child, Chapter 3, p. 11)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

A practice that was set long ago at Iqra! Alhumdulillah

Who'd thought of relating no shoes to calmness?! :)
(Do read the attached article by Emine Saner which was recently featured in The Guardian)

At Iqra, Allah has helped us do the right things, right from the start even though at that time we were oblivious of this research!

Dear Teachers: Trusting the instincts of your leader and not getting overwhelmed when faced with opposition/pessimism helps. :)
Dear Parents: Next time you don't have your way at Iqra, do not fret instead trust that it's for the better good which only time will eventually reveal In Shaa Allah. :)

فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ

Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah (Noble Quran - 3:159)

Lots of duas!

As reported by The Guardian on the 24th of May, 2016 :

The secret to calm classrooms? Lose the shoes

Shoes are, as many teachers might tell you, one of the battlegrounds in a school’s uniform policy. Heel height, colour, whether or not a pupil’s shoe could actually be classed as a trainer are all argued over. But research suggests schools should do away with shoes altogether. The issue has been looked at as part of the Learnometer project, examining the physical conditions of classrooms, including temperature, light, sound and CO2. In the project, children surveyed each other at other schools in different countries, and one of the things that appealed to them, particularly after speaking to children at schools in Scandinavia, is introducing shoeless classrooms.

Stephen Heppell, professor of new media environments at Bournemouth University’s Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, who is running the project, has observed many shoeless schools now, and has seen the effects, including better behaviour. Going shoeless also has a particular impact on bullying. “It seems to be difficult to be a bully with your shoes off,” he says. “All the places we’ve been where kids have their shoes off, they report calmness.”

The researchers had asked children where they read at home. “Ninety-five per cent said it was with shoes off, sitting in comfort on a sofa, bed, on the floor, on a beanbag.” Making the classroom more comfortable and inviting, with clean carpets and no dirty footwear, could encourage reading, he says. It isn’t just the children who should spend the day in their socks, says Heppell, the teachers must too. “You can’t have a room that’s shoeless unless everybody is shoeless.”

Whether any of this barefootedness translates into academic progress is difficult to say. “There are a lot more variables. These experiments are in schools that are improving anyway – they wouldn’t be taking their shoes off if they weren’t looking for ways to be better.”

Other teachers sound a similar note of warning. Secondary-school teacher Tom Starkey says he is intrigued by the idea but warns against falling for quick fixes. “It’s the shoes [that are a problem], or the food, or the colour of the uniform. It’s more complicated than that. It’s about socio-economic background, what’s going on in the school, teaching approach. Focusing on one thing – such as shoes, which is cute – sometimes shifts the focus away from things that are more important.”

By Emine Saner

Bismillah - The blogging journey begins, finally!

Assalaam Alaykum WaraHmatullah Wabarakatuh

So, Alhumdulillah after 4 years of non stop toiling at Iqra I'm finally hoping to be able to steal some time to connect with my Iqranian parents, staff and patrons through my blogs  In Shaa Allah.

I am extremely grateful to Allah for providing barakah in my time, Alhumdulillah.

Friends and family who've known me closely have always advised me to write and I've personally yearned to do the same since years. I am very excited to start this journey and hope to benefit you all with my posts. Let's see if  there's a writer in me?!  :)

So here goes....