Ramadan At School

With Ramadan fast approaching, we take a look at the school-yard do's and don't's for both students and parents, during Islam's Holiest Month...
Ramadan At School
By C Hoppe
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While it’s easy for most adults to adapt to the changes the holy month of Ramadan brings, those new to the country and/or with smaller children can feel this month is a bit of a cultural mine-field. We spoke to Laura Cianfrini, a teacher with eight years experience at Al Mizhar American Academy, Dubai for her take on how to be both culturally aware and enhance your child’s Ramadan experience.

“Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar is fast approaching," Ms Cianfrini tell us us. "As Islam follows the lunar calendar, Ramadan occurs approximately ten days earlier each year, meaning it’ll take place during the school year for the foreseeable future.”

“During Ramadan, most Muslims above the age of eight will fast. This means that they won’t eat or drink anything while the sun is visible in the sky.  And, while you and your children might not be Muslim, living in the UAE means the month of Ramadan WILL impact your daily life,” Laura says.

Laura’s Tips for Ramadan at School

Most Muslim teachers and students who are above the age of eight will be fasting.  This means that they will have risen before the sun has risen to have “Suhoor” and will not eat again until after the sun has gone down when they will have “Iftar”.  Late nights and early mornings will wreak havoc on students’ systems.  They are likely to be very tired during the day and not able to fully participate in many of the class learning activities.

It is hot and everyone understands that small children (under 8) must eat and drink, so don’t worry about them taking water/snacks to school and consuming as and when required.  Most schools will have a designated area for this anyway.

Older children however, should understand that while they can consume food and drinks, it should be done with thought and sensitivity to those around them.

Most school canteens will be open, however, it’s unlikely they’ll be serving food.  So get those lunchboxes ready, you’re going to have to start preparing healthy daily lunches.

Depending on the school, it’s likely that your child may have their music and P.E. classes cancelled. (If these lessons remain on the schedule it’s more than likely these classes will be spent ‘studying’ the activity rather than any actively participating.)

In school and public, it’s important for children to be modestly dressed during Ramadan (much like the dress code for adults- shoulders/knees/not-tight)

School Drop Off/Pick up

Any music you normally play in the car should not be audible to those around you

Dress conservatively - cover shoulders, knees and everything in between and please make sure it isn’t tight!

Adults should avoid smoking, eating, chewing gum and drinking anything in their car.

Things to embrace during Ramadan

Teach children to say “Ramadan Kareem” to any Muslim friends and students.

Use this as an opportunity to do some summer clear-outs and donate the items to charities.  Gratitude and generosity are always an important part of Islam, but are even more so during this holy month.

Take some time to learn about the new culture and really try to go to any Iftars you might be invited to.

How to enhance your child’s Ramadan experience

This month is all about the idea of giving, positive thoughts, and learning more about the Islamic culture.  Teach your child how to get in the spirit of this month by setting the tone yourself.

Show them how important it is to demonstrate positive behaviour and not to use unkind words.

Have them donate some of their own items to a charity or take extra food and water to a mosque where it will be given to those who are need.

Remember that for Muslims, this is a month that will be spent mostly visiting their families.  Please don’t take offence if they are unable to attend play-dates and other activities. (There are some exceptions to this – if the child is younger than 8 and are not fasting, they may attend.  Older children might be able to attend if the play-date time is after iftar)

If you are planning to have a birthday party for your child, it is probably best to plan on having it in your own home.  Most restaurants will not allow parties that include decorations, gifts, and music to take place during the month of Ramadan.

Remember too, during Ramadan it’s important for Muslim people to educate others about their religion.  If you or your child aren’t sure how to handle something – feel free to ask, it’s very unlikely to cause offence.  Most families in the UAE welcome the opportunity to explain the details of their culture to those of us who are guests in their country.   It really is much better to ask than to make a possible error in judgment.

Overall, living in the UAE, Ramadan is going to have a significant impact on your life regardless of your religion.  By following these basic guidelines, keeping an open mind, and respecting the different cultures you are surrounded by, you can make this a learning opportunity for you and your family!

Ramadan Kareem!

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