Muslim Aid Australia held a special dinner on Friday 13 March 2020 in Bankstown, Sydney to celebrate the opening of the MAA International Primary School (MIPS) in Vanuatu, attended by community leaders and supporters from various states of Australia as well as New Zealand.

The Republic of Vanuatu is a South Pacific Ocean nation located west of Fiji, famous for gorgeous islands and coral reefs made up of roughly 80 islands that include Tanna – that has the active volcano Mount Yasur.

Unfortunately, Vanuatu also has the highest proportion of children who have never attended schools while in remote Tanna, a child has to walk at least 4km a day to attend school, which leads to poor school attendance and performance.

These were some of the fundamental reasons behind MAA wanting to open the school in Tanna, Vanuatu that turned out to be a very challenging project, but with a most rewarding outcome and a great success story.

The event, held at The Highline Venue in Bankstown included talks, presentations, documentary showcasing the project and video linked discussions with movers and shakers involved in the project.

After the Maghreb prayer, the formal program was started by Shameema Kolia, MC with the recitation of Quran by Sheikh Ahmad Ben Fayed and a welcome address by Madinia Abdurahman, MAA chairperson.

While talking about MAA’s values and reviewing the year 2019, MAA General Manager, Aziz Dindar, expressed his gratitude for the support from donors, especially ‘Fathi The Opening’ – a charity initiative begun by family members in memory of their young brother Fathi Karra-Hassan, who passed away in Sydney in early 2017.

“We are committed to continue developing impactful humanitarian aid projects in the oft-neglected South Pacific region,” Mr Dindar said.

A video address on moving forward was presented by Sheikh Abdel Moez Nafti, MAA Executive Director Islamic Affairs.

The program also included a panel discussion including Taupheeq Omar, Project Manager (Fiji), Salah Hammad, Permaculture Expert (UK), Amna Karra Hassan, Fathi the Opening (Australia) and Razia Ben Fayed, Al Firasa (New Zealand).

Education & Employment: 

The school provides free education to all and currently accommodates 40 children in Year 1 and 2 classes, but has a capacity of 120 students. The official Vanuatu curriculum is followed which includes Maths, Science and English and additionally the school also conducts Arabic, Culture and Permaculture classes. The school currently employs nine locals in roles across management, teaching, farm aid and more in addition to the volunteers and consultants that make up the School Council. 

Sustainable Community: 

The school complex doubles as a sustainable agriculture site for the community where both students and adults can learn techniques such as composting food waste, sustaining soil fertility, harvesting rain water, and more. This will help them rely less on imported food and fertilisers that harm their health and land. The site will also be equipped with a solar panel system, composting toilets, grey water systems, and recycling processes to make up for the lack of such utilities in Tanna. 

Health & Nutrition: 

The permaculture programme at the school not only teaches the community about sustainable agriculture, it also provides highly nutritious crops that are cooked at the school kitchen and turned into healthy lunches every day. The school also runs parent and child workshops that focus on hygiene and bathing techniques, lice prevention and treatment, and other health issues. 

The structure is also cyclone-proof and can withstand a highest Category 5 cyclone.