The Jamaican Gleaner online September 29th 2020 edition highlighted the success of two students at Madrasat-ul Bayt Institute (MBI) in the recent Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams. Grade seven students Sameerah Dyer (13 years old) and Salama Abdul-Majeed (11 years old) aced Principles of Business (POB) with a grade one with distinction and a grade two, respectively. The CSEC examinations are equivalent to the Ordinary Level (O-Levels) examinations and targeted towards students sixteen and older.
The Jamaica Gleaner reported that: “The two are among four grade seven students who passed the subject at the Madrasat-ul Bayt Institute (MBI), an Islamic school on Windsor Road in Spanish Town, St Catherine, which has been around for just seven years. This year, it had its first batch of students sitting external examinations.”
Tauhirah Powell, one of the two founders of the school, posted on MadrasatulBayt_Institute Instagram account: “I’ve always wanted to homeschool my children. But (I) was given the impression that it’s not allowed by Jamaican law. In the spring of 2012, I decided I wasn’t sending another one of my children to Primary school. I contacted a few Muslim families who had children my daughter’s age and decided to open the first Islamic Primary school. We began with four grade one children in a spare room at my house. In 2015 we decided to extend our services to other Muslim families so we purchased two 40 feet containers which would house grades, one, two, four and five. Alhamdulillah (praise God), by the grace and mercy of Allah, we provided an alternative for parents who desire to have their Muslim children in an Islamic learning environment.”
The Jamaica Gleaner spoke to Sameera Dyer, who said that her Principles of Business teacher – who is also her mother – believed that she could handle Principles of Business.
Sameera told The Gleaner “I was ecstatic to learn I got a distinction. My parents were extremely proud of me. My mom was crying and could hardly breathe. Our teachers always encourage us to do our best and put our trust in the Creator. Success lies with Him. We do our part, and He does the rest,” Her objective is to follow in her uncle’s footsteps to become an economist.
While in grade 8, Sameera will be sitting four more CSEC subjects in 2021, – Principles of Accounts, Mathematics, English A, and Food and Nutrition.
Salama, at 11 years old, was the youngest among the exam cohort and said that while sitting the exam was not her choice, she had no regrets; as reported in The Gleaner.
She told The Gleaner that exam preparation “…. was stressful but manageable, with my older brother, who also sat the CSEC exam and got a grade one”.
The Gleaner reported that MBI director and tutor, Taariq Abdul-Majeed, was overjoyed at the students’ performance.
“They demonstrated that with discipline and hard work, age is just a number. I’m even more excited about their future than ever before,” he said, pointing out that students sit subjects on the recommendation of teachers. We have a staggered system where they start the CSEC syllabus from grade seven upwards and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination syllabus in Grade 10,” he explained.
Taariq offered more details via text messages to CaribbeanMuslims.com. He reported that Madrasat-ul-Bayt Institute (MBI) was the brainchild of two families that who would educate our children in a faith-based environment. After six years operating as a Ministry of Education registered primary school, MBI introduced the High School in August 2019 with Grade 7. Madrasat-ul-Bayt means “home school” having started on the verandah of one of the homes and a bedroom in the other family’s home.
In September 2015 MBI moved into two adjoined shipping containers on the compound of Masjidur Rahman, Spanish Town’s only masjid. There are two other kindergartens in Jamaica. But this is the first of its kind and currently, the only faith-based primary and high school catering to the needs of Muslims. Initially, the response from the community was mixed. However, with the excellent results over the past three years (90%+ average, 100% passes for elite high schools, and now CSEC passes in Grade 7), they are getting better reception and traction.
The school’s curriculum aims to graduate students who are fully rounded and contribute to our faith community and our nation, inshaAllah (God willing). In addition to courses in Business, Sciences, Languages, Agriculture, IT, there are faith-focused subjects such as Islamic Studies, Arabic Language, Practical Qur’an and Tarbiyya (character formation).
CSEC exams up to 3rd form, then A-Levels and Skills Training in 4th and 5th form inshaAllah.
We are adding a small room on top to facilitate the Grade 8 students now and hopefully; we can add classrooms as we expand inshaAllah.
MBI is quite under-resourced; there is a lot they would like to do; however, the main challenge is the limited resources.
For example, more classroom space is needed, a library, a science lab, a skills training room. However, at MBI, they’ve learnt to improvise and don’t use limitations of funding as an excuse Alhamdulillah.
MBI have no active fundraising drive. When in need, they reach out to the community from time to time and do fundraisers once per year.
Teachers are limited, and actually, one teacher covers two grades at a time. Alhamdulillah, the teachers are mostly parents and as such, only get a stipend.
The fees are US$600 per year which is quite low for a private school, but parents that gravitate to the school aren’t in the affluent bracket, and as such it poses difficulty to collect the fees. Occasionally fees are written off out of compassion.
Muslim children in the immediate area are about 30 to 40. However, those that are interested cannot afford it.
MBI currently have 21 students Alhamdulillah, 7 being new enrolments this year. With COVID-19 restrictions instructions are online, they usually straddle a total of 14 to 16 students in total. However, we’re phasing in person for selected areas inshaAllah. Of course, with the necessary precautions.
1. MBI needs more space for classrooms, labs, a bathroom and a kitchen.
The cheapest option would be shipping containers as there is limited space at the Masjid compound and can only expand upwards.
2. Hifz Program requires qualified teachers (can be online). However, or would need to be funded.
3. Scholarships for potential students.
4. Technical Support from Muslim experts in the field. MBI does have a vision, but this is uncharted territory for its operators, and they are best practices and efficiencies they could learn and apply inshaAllah.
5. Dua for continued success.
6. Possible donations towards operating costs. MBI’s annual expenditure currently is approximately JMD 1.6m (US$11k). With fees around US$10k per year, they raise the other US$1000 annually through fundraisers.
However, more could achieve more if they have teachers dedicated to one grade inshaAllah. Alhamdulillah MBI is doing quite well with the multigrade approach so far, but the potential to unlock is great inshaAllah.
As an offshoot of the students’ performance, literacy, computer studies, and CSEC mathematics and English classes will be offered free of cost to the community.