The Muslim National School
The Muslim National School in Dublin is the first state funded primary school for Muslim children in Ireland. It was established by the Islamic Foundation of Ireland in 1990.
The idea of a Muslim national school in Dublin was prompted by the growing number of Muslim families and a deep felt need for an education which would keep in focus the values of the Islamic faith.
As the Muslim community in Ireland believes that the education of children, not only religious education, is primarily the duty of the community, they were happy to take on the responsibility of educating Muslim children. Fortunately, this view parallels that of the Irish Educational System. The Irish Constitution states in Article 42.1. “The State acknowledges that the primary educator of the child is the family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.”
In 1988 an initial meeting took place between representatives of the Muslim community and officials of the Department of Education to discuss the viability of a Muslim national school. The Department of Education were willing to support the establishment of a Muslim school provided that there were a minimum of twenty four children over the age of four and that parents and the community would be committed to maintaining and increasing the numbers of pupils. The School would be run by the Muslim community, through a board of management.
In 1989 the Islamic Foundation of Ireland held a conference in which the topic of Islamic education for children in Ireland was addressed. Speakers came from both Ireland and overseas and guests came from bo
In March 1990, an application for the recognition of the School was submitted to the Department of Education. Provisional recognition was granted by the Minister for Education in July 1990. The administration premises of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland on South Circular Road, Dublin 8, were refurbished to meet the requirements of the School. A Principal and one assistant teacher were appointed as well as religious staff. The School opened in September 1990 with forty pupils. As pupil numbers increased, second and third assistant teachers were appointed in consecutive years.th the Muslim and Christian communities. At the end of the conference it was clear that there were a committed group of people who were ready to support the school project.
It became obvious from the increasing numbers that the temporary School building at Dublin Mosque and Islamic Centre on the South Circular Road was no longer adequate. The site would not accommodate further classrooms or provide playground facilities. In August 1992, the Islamic Foundation acquired a new school site for the school, which along with the refurbishing of existing buildings, was sponsored by Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In January 1993, the school moved to its new location with one hundred and seventeen pupils.
The Official Opening of the School
On Saturday the 24th of April 1993, the then President of Ireland, Mrs. Mary Robinson, officially opened the first state-funded Muslim School in Ireland. In her speech, President Robinson said: “With the traditional Muslim thirst for knowledge, learning and culture, it was only natural that members of the Muslim Community would feel the need for an education which would reflect the values of the Islamic faith. With the co-operation of the Department of Education this has now been fulfilled.”
She said that she was conscious that the children, who welcomed her to their school, were both Irish and Muslims and that “they help to broaden our sense of Irishness, they enrich us with their strong and symbolic sense of culture and ideals.”
Imam Yahya Al-Hussein, the School Patron said, “The issue of educating Muslim children is central to the Muslim Community. As parents and community, we feel it is necessary for us to take adequate steps to preserve, cultivate and promote the basic teachings of Islam among the younger generation of Muslims living in this country.
Since the political and religious authorities in Ireland are basically rooted in faith in God and eternal values, thereby, they are in support of those same basic teachings that Islam has always promoted.
The Islamic Community have found the Irish educational system very positive and supportive of their aims, and hope that the Muslim School will produce Muslims who will contribute to the spiritual and material welfare of Ireland. The school will stand as a monument to the respect and accord given by the Irish State to the beliefs of Minority groups, and to the Muslim community who, with the help of Allah worked so hard towards this goal.”
In November 1996 an extension to the school (5 extra classrooms) was officially opened by President Mary Robinson, along with the Islamic Cultural Centre, which adjoins the school.
The School is recognised by the Department of Education. It receives funding from the Department in the form of the salaries of the full time teachers (excluding the religion teachers), language support teachers, special need assistants, a capitation grant, secretary and caretaker’s grants, payment of 90% the school furniture and provision of free transportation to the children to and from the school. The rest of the expenses have to be raised by the Muslim community.
Growth of School Since 1990
At the time when the School first opened there were 41 pupils and 2 full time teachers, and two part-time religion teachers. Today there are 284 pupils in the School. There are 18 full time teachers from the Department of education including a non-teaching Principal and 10 Special Need Assistants. The Qur'an, Deen and Arabic are taught by five part-time Muslim teachers.