By Naureen Aqueel and Ferya Ilyas
Walking into “Reflections”, one cannot help but feel awed by the state of the art building and infrastructure of this Islamic school. To put it in the words of Mr. Ather Chawla, Chairman Board of Trustees, who was among the founders of the school: “We are trying to create a model.” And for Mr. Chawla, being a model essentially means that the school must stand in comparison to the biggest and brightest schools in the city. The building is an integral part of that process. However, Mr. Chawla does not deny the importance of other aspects as well, such as the quality of education and extra-curricular activities, which the school is also striving to excel in.
Reflections is situated in the Korangi Creek area of Karachi with a purpose-built campus spread over 4.75 acres of land. State-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, gymnasiums, playing fields and pools are some of the distinguishing features of this school that set it apart not only from other Islamic schools in the city, but many mainstream schools as well. However, there is surely more to this school that makes it different from other schools.
Conceptualised in 2003 and having started its functioning in August 2004, “Reflections – personalized education” was envisioned to be a school providing balanced education to children in a world, where morals and ethics are deteriorating at a rapid pace, shares Mr. Chawla. The idea was to have a school that could balance contemporary academic education with education of Islamic morals and ethics as well as physical education. This idea was shared by Mr. Chawla and Saeed Motiwala along with some other friends.
Setting up the school, however, was no smooth sailing. Mr. Chawla relates a long story of the difficulties and bureaucratic procedures they had to go through in order to obtain a suitable place and begin construction. But the team held onto their faith in Allah (swt). “I have learned that whatever happens, happens by the will of Allah (swt),” says Mr. Chawla.
The school currently provides classes up to grade six, with a plan to add one class each passing year. Along with the mainstream academic subjects, one finds a very strong Islamic component in the curriculum with such disciplines as Arabic, Tajweed, Tafsir, Hadeeth and Seerah added to it.
Balancing knowledge of the world with knowledge of Islam is a challenge, according to Mr. Chawla, because it involves providing an extra subject, and in order to do that, children have to stay in school till 3:30 pm. Mr. Chawla explains that having long timings becomes a challenge, but additional subjects require additional time. “Reflections” also has a variety of extra-curricular activities for students, ranging from daily sports (as well as Sports Days), Spelling Bee competitions, Arabic, Urdu and English role plays, quizzes and art exhibitions. “The best thing is that every child participates in each activity.”
The emphasis given to Arabic as a language and the way that it is taught is one of the distinguishing features of this school. “Reflections” also has an exemplary Hifz programme running alongside their mainstream and Islamic curriculum. Inaugurated two years ago, this Hifz programme was initially started from class four. After a review by the administration, the Hifz programme has now been introduced from class three. “Running an Islamic school is one challenge; providing Hifz in an Islamic school is another challenge, because it involves hiring and training teachers, who usually come from the Madaris background, where they have been taught that they can’t teach, unless they don’t beat. We take that power away from them,” explains Mr. Chawla.
The school provides a proper van service to make commuting easier for students and staff. Recently, the school has also started conducting workshops for parents in an attempt to include them in the learning process.
The aim of the school is to make children perfect reflections of the Quran and Sunnah and to produce students, who are complete Muslims in terms of Ibadaat and Maamlaat and effective citizens, who leave an impact wherever they go. We pray they are able to accomplish their goals. Ameen.