Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Islamic school is work in progress

New building reflects progress and commitment

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, the 40 children gathered at the International Academy of Cincinnati's meeting hall quieted. Principal Sardar Tanveer recited the school's opening prayer, first in Arabic, then English: “We start in the name of God who is most merciful and gracious.”

        With that simple prayer, the academy opened the 2001-02 school year in its new building at the 19-acre campus of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, off Plantation Road. Until this year, the school only offered preschool and kindergarten classes.

        But Monday, an eight-pupil, combined first/second grade class was started. Next fall, grades three through five will join the younger children.

        Each year, two or three grades will be added through the eighth grade. A $4 million, 42,500-square-foot school containing 21 classrooms, three multiuse labs, an art cen ter, computer lab and music room was finished this month.

        The Muslim school, which welcomes children of all races and cultures, is the only school of its kind in Greater Cincinnati, with the nearest Muslim schools in Beavercreek, in suburban Dayton, and near Columbus. Each afternoon, the students receive instruction in Islam and Arabic along with traditional subjects. Non-Muslims may be excused at their parents' request. There are two such students among the total enrollment of 40.

        Emphasis is placed on character, morals, family, integrity and academic excellence, Mr. Tanveer said. Classes are small and the school has a faculty of five teachers and two administrators.

        Parent Farheen Bakali, who is originally from Pakistan, re-enrolled her 4-year-old son Zohabe for a second year of preschool because she likes the exposure he gets not only to Islam, but other religions and customs. The West Chester mom likes the multicultural emphasis at the school, which employs both Muslim and non-Muslim instructors.

        “I feel like this is our second home,” Mrs. Bakali said. "I am impressed with the manners and moral teaching. They are very open to suggestions and we (parents) are very welcome.”

        In the kindergarten class, teacher Farheen Owaisi, who is Muslim, began her language arts lesson with the customary Muslin greeting spoken in Arabic before asking the children in English to name parts of their body.

        Math instructor Jamila Tanveer explained the concept of “equal” and “same” by pointing out which children were wearing white shirts that day. Then the children picked out items of clothing that were the same in each of four rows before coloring them.

        “I like school because you color a lot and I like to color,” 5-year-old Yoseph Dala said after completing the lesson.


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