Preparing for Ramadan

Teacher organizing seminar on Muslim holy month for educators


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Expecting she won’t be at her best during the upcoming days of Ramadan, 10-year-old Aliyah Van Rooyen wants her classmates and teachers to realize exactly why that may be.

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Expecting she won’t be at her best during the upcoming days of Ramadan, 10-year-old Aliyah Van Rooyen wants her classmates and teachers to realize exactly why that may be.

“I would like them to understand when you fast, it’s very hard to focus and concentrate and stay awake,” explains the Grade 4 student at École South Pointe School.

During Ramadan, some school-aged Muslim children may stay awake past their usual bedtime to join in the evening meal and other activities at local mosques, which can further impact their ability to concentrate, says a teacher who is organizing a two-hour seminar on Ramadan for educators, scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, March 19.

Held for the third consecutive year, but the first time in person, the workshop titled Be Ramadan Ready will cover the basics of the Muslim holy month, which begins the evening of Wednesday, March 22 and runs until Thursday, April 20.

“We sensed there was a need to make a bridge with the community and have schools on board,” explains Aadila Adam-Omer, a teacher at Collège Miles Macdonell Collegiate.

“This year we’re excited to have it in person and build a closeness (among participants) and to tour the facility.”

Adam-Omer expects many of the teachers and school administrators joining the program, which costs $15 and includes the evening meal, won’t have previously visited Winnipeg’s Grand Mosque at 2445 Waverley St.

“We hope they can come in, see the building, see where students are observing Ramadan,” she says about the sprawling facility in southwest Winnipeg which hosts evening prayers and community meals during Ramadan.

One of the five pillars of Islam, fasting during Ramadan involves abstaining from food and drink from dawn to sunset. Although fasting is a requirement for all Muslims, exceptions are made for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and people with health concerns, says Adam-Omer. Children often start fasting part-time at about the age of 9.

That’s the case in the Van Rooyen household, where the younger members are encouraged to fast but also reassured it’s fine if they can’t manage the whole 30 days, says Aliyah’s mother Zena Van Rooyen.

“In our house we have a gradual start, so if she needs to stop and eat, she can ease into (fasting),” says Van Rooyen.

Schools can accommodate fasting students by providing flexible schedules, moving tests and other assessments to after Ramadan, rescheduling strenuous physical activities in the playground or gym, or providing another space for Muslim students over the lunch hour, says Adam-Omer.

“In the past I’ve booked the gym for quiet activities, like watching a quiet movie,” she says of how she found an alternative for fasting students at the junior high school where she taught last year.

With spring break beginning on March 27, just a few days after the start of Ramadan, families can participate more fully in activities at the mosque without worrying about school schedules, says Van Rooyen.

“It does give students the opportunity to be at home and immerse themselves in religious and cultural practices with their families,” she says.

A large component of the religious practice of fasting is developing mindfulness and compassion for others, says Adam-Omer. Going without food for 30 days reminds Muslims how others in their communities suffer hunger and poverty every day.

“We can use that concept at the school level and in the classroom and ask how we can help the other people in our building,” she says.

“If we can have those 20,000 Muslims (in Manitoba) participating (in helping others) during the whole month, imagine the change we could make. That would be amazing.”

The Free Press is committed to covering faith in Manitoba. If you appreciate that coverage, help us do more! Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow us to deepen our reporting about faith in the province. Thanks! BECOME A FAITH JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman
Faith reporter

Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.

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