The AMUST core production team paid a week-long visit to Melbourne in August 2019 meeting its Melbourne based writers, advertisers and distributors handing out awards to AMUST partners, visiting a number of organisations and institutions, especially Islamic schools and catching up with community leaders and elders.
One of the highlight of the visit was a day-long guided tour of the Minaret College Springvale and Officer campuses, offering Juma prayers in congregation with staff and students, meeting with its founder Mr Mohamed Hassan, conversations with senior executive team members and an extensive interview with the executive principal of Minaret College, Mr Mohammed Taksim conducted by Mobinah Ahmad, that forms the basis of this feature on the success story that Minaret College is today.
The AMUST team wishes to thank Mr Subhan Ali, Executive Manager Operations and Mr Riyaaz Ali, Assistant Manager – Community Relations & Marketing for facilitating their visit to Minaret College campuses and catching up with long-time family friends, Mr Mohamed Hassan, Ms Susie Hassan and Dr Ahmed Hassan.
Minaret College has its humble beginnings, being established by its Founding Director, Mr Mohamed Hassan OAM, as Islamic College of Noble Park, twenty-seven years ago back in 1992 with only 33 students enrolled during the first year, but with the ambitious vision to provide Muslim children with an environment for the preservation of their Islamic Identity by fostering in them the Islamic Values and preparing them to be model Australian Muslim citizens that participate positively in building a prosperous, harmonious and safe society.
The College now spans two campuses (Springvale and Officer), both of which cater for students from ELC to year 12 catering currently for 2000 students and their families and continues to grow as local families seek a school which has a proven record of academic success while nurturing students in a way which develops their Muslim identity and Islamic values.
It was Mr Hassan, since his arrival in Australia in 1967 and having worked with many community and youth organisations especially at Muslim youth camps, who saw the need to cater for the education and training of young Muslim Australians and Identified the need for Muslim youth to be surrounded in an environment which caters for their academic, emotional and spiritual development.
Since Mr Hassan’s retirement in 2017, the college board appointed Mr Mohammed Taksim as the Executive Principal of the College where under the leadership of Mr Taksim and his team, Minaret College continues to strive to produce students with a healthy Australian Muslim identity, which is connected, conscious, sincere to its traditions and committed to excellence, good citizenship and compassionate service to humanity.
During the interview, Mr Taksim reflected on the history of the college and the legacy that has been created by the founder of the college and then the transition that has happened in the college from the founder to the next level of leadership.
“These are not easy transitions, I know where somebody has basically created something as their own baby to then hand over to another person and I am very mindful of that, to be very respectful of the founder and to always acknowledge the transition where I am leading the college at the moment with a very capable senior executive team around me,” Mr Taksim acknowledged.
With the smooth transition of leadership and support of the college board, the Minaret Team are working hard to take the College to new heights and by putting the student at the heart of their decisions, the College has made a significant investment in upgrading infrastructure and facilities at both campuses.
Springvale has seen the addition of a new Early Learning Centre as well as a Place of Assembly which is used for daily prayers as well as hosting Eid prayers for the community. Earlier this year a new VCE and Admin building was opened at Officer Campus. These developments, as well as others, enable students to learn in state of the art facilities and build capacity to support the growing demand for enrolments.
Mr Taksim while quoting from the hadith of the Prophet Mohammad (s), “The best of people are those who bring the most benefit to the rest of mankind” when addressing the Colleges’ graduates of 2018 talked about commitment to excellence as reflected in their results where six students achieved an ATAR above 90, the highest of which was an outstanding 99.7.
At the same time, Mr Taksim reminded the students that success in this life was not determined by an ATAR score, but success will be determined by what happens next. By that criteria, Minaret students continue to succeed. Amongst their graduates are inspiring entrepreneurs, hard-working doctors and engineers, inspirational teachers and aspiring scholars of Islam.
Minaret graduates continue to be part of the body of the College affectionately referred to as the ‘Minaret Family’ and many of them return to offer support and advice to the current students.
On being asked to point out tangible goals that the College strives for, Mr Taksim said that Minaret College has, in fact, a ten-point plan, but narrowed it down to focus on two distinct areas during the next five years, good quality facilities and resources.
“What you see as you move around are the new facilities that are coming up and some have been already completed, that are on par with any other school or even better in order to make the place enjoyable for students. So, the other plan now is upgrading of our bathroom facilities and our canteen at Springvale campus. What you are going to see at the state of the art facilities at Officer campus, we are going to replicate it at Springvale campus, including ergonomic furniture so that our students are comfortable,” Mr Taksim explained.
He further added, ” the other focus is on the quality of teaching and learning that is happening in the classroom. Support for students, quality teachers, quality resources making textbooks accessible to families and making education affordable to the community we serve as well as looking at so many other things like the cleanliness of the campuses.”
On being questioned that some criticism of Islamic schools is that the Muslim students are segregated and isolated from the mainstream society, Mr Taksim said, “ this criticism to some degree is valid in that the community feels that sometimes we put our children in a bubble and don’t give them the experiences of real life. So, we address that in a number of ways. We started with a stop to gender segregation two years ago. We don’t have segregated classes anymore where we have mixed classes all the way from the foundation to year 12. This places emphasis on respectful relationship to prepare our students for the diversity in the workplace. Our students are also provided with a taste of the workplace by participating in the year 10 work experience program.”
He further added, “You will be surprised to know that 40% of our staff are not of Islamic faith and we are part of a group of religious schools where we participate in the building bridges program with reciprocal student visits and interactions with people of other faiths.”
Minaret College is well on its way to moving from good to great but Mr Taksim promises that the changes we’re seeing are just the beginning of what he and his team are planning to deliver.
“Mr Hassan laid strong foundations with sincere intention and with the support of my capable team I intend to continue to progress his vision Inshaallah”, he said.
Minaret College has limited places still available at both campuses and holds regular tours for current and prospective families to experience the changes first hand. The College welcome interest families to contact either campus to arrange a guided tour.