The Islamic School of Canberra (ISC) in Weston, ACT is scrambling for survival after the Federal Government decided to cease funding after 30 June 2017.
ISC is an independent K-7 co-educational school with a student population of 215 and employs over 20 staff, educating its students using the Australian National Curriculum within the Islamic tradition.
According to the Principal, Mr David Johns, if the government ceases funds as they did last year, it will require outside funding of $600,000 to remain viable till the end of this calendar year otherwise it will close within the next 6 weeks.
The school has started a fundraising campaign on social media that will allow small and large donations to the school. Donations can be made through the following website www.chuffed.org/project/sos-isc. Donors can also send money directly to the Parents & Friends Fundraising Account:
Account Name: PFA-ISC Fundraising,
Bank: Commonwealth Bank of Australia
The school has progressed over the last year with new administrative and academic leadership to be an example for other schools teaching within the Islamic tradition.
It has developed a strong curriculum and extra curricula programme that provides students with the knowledge and practice of their Muslim faith together with its application within Australian society.
The school has also regularly engaged in outreach activities that provide opportunity for students to give back to the wider community with fundraising as well as allow non-Muslim community members a deeper understanding of the Islamic faith and its value within Australian society.
The school supports a rapidly growing Muslim population in Canberra on a valuable tract of land that was provided at a low cost by the ACT Government. ISC also supports the many Muslim diplomats and their families in Canberra.
The Islamic School of Canberra was formed and managed by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC). However, the Commonwealth Government has deemed that for the funding to continue the school should be independent of any financial control or management influence by any outside entity.
The Commonwealth Government stopped its funding to the school last year for this reason and only recommenced it after appointment of an independent Board, made up of educators, public servants and academics, which committed to strengthen the school’s governance and further distance itself from AFIC over time.
According to Mr Johns, the Commonwealth Government has now given notice to cease its funding at the end of June for three key reasons:
- Governance (documentation, record keeping, decision-making)
- Existing links to AFIC (including financial loans)
- Financial viability (a monthly shortfall to meet operational expenses and debt repayments)
“We are confident we will address the governance issue immediately and remaining points in the medium to long-term,” he said.
“However, the worst-case scenario in the short-term is that if we cannot convince the government in time to continue the funding beyond June this year we will have no choice other than to close. In that case, the students will go to other schools – most likely the public schools with no Islamic education.”
“Understandably teachers are also worried about their livelihood and it is quite reasonable for them to commence looking for other employment very soon if they have not already done so. Once gone it will be hard to regain teaching professionals of their calibre and understanding of an Islamic education.”
According to the President of the Parents & Friends Association (PFA-ISC), Mr Kalam Azad, the school needs $600,000 to fund the school for the remaining months of the school calendar till December to counter the possible cessation of Commonwealth Funding.
“With this commitment, we can assure the teachers that their salaries are fully funded till the end of the year and so there is no need to seek other employment,” he said.
“This will also assure parents so that they do not take their students out prematurely.”
The school has a long-term strategy, according to the Chair of the school board, Mrs Azra Khan.
“With the immediate needs fulfilled and a strategy for viability met, we will continue to seek to meet the government’s conditions and regain the monthly funding,” she said.
“We feel that the school has potential for significantly higher student numbers once these issues are resolved and the community has confidence in the long-term viability of the school. This will increase the school’s financial position.
“We also have the long-term potential to establish an Islamic College and University along with existing Islamic school and need continued support from the community to continue the investment in our children.”