From your award winning charity
05 November 2015

Connecting Classrooms

This gallery contains 11 images

The MH education team from Islamabad pays Parkinson Lane Community Primary School a visit

Approaching Parkinson Lane Community Primary School in Halifax, we were struck not only by the size of the beautifully preserved Victorian building, but also by the many impressive artworks made from different scrap materials, that adorned its walls.

We were here to find out about a connecting classrooms project between Parkinson Lane School and the Muslim Hands School of Excellence in Islamabad.

We run Schools of Excellence across Asia and Africa, giving orphaned and needy children access to a quality education, nutritious meals and state-of-the-art facilities. A team from MH Islamabad was here to see what they could learn from teachers in the UK.

On entering the Parkinson Lane reception we were greeted by smiling faces and taken through to meet Head teacher Gugsy Ahmed who, along with Deputy Head Rizwana Ahmed were doing their best in a mixture of Punjabi and Urdu, to explain the Great Fire of London to the team from Pakistan. The atmosphere in the room was jovial and it was obvious that the Pakistani guests felt very much at ease in their temporary home.
After the long train journey we were happy to tuck into the daal, rice and chicken curry that was offered to us before we were whisked off by Hafeez, in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation across Muslim Hands Schools in Pakistan and Tahseen, a Grade teacher from the Islamabad School of Excellence; for a tour of the school.

Walking around the classrooms, we were overwhelmed by all the beautiful displays, the excellent resources and the comfortable spaces created for students to get the best out of their learning. Hafeez and Tahseen greeted staff and children as we passed through the rooms, joking that they, the visitors, now had visitors of their own.
Around 2pm it was time to burn down London. When we first heard we would be welcomed up north with a ritual burning of our home town we were a little alarmed, but we needn’t have been. The year two students had made a miniature seventeenth century London and it was going to be set alight in the playground to give children (and adults) a better idea of how the fire devastated so much of the city in such a short space of time.

As we all stood watching papier mache London burn, Head teacher Mr Ahmed joked with teachers and students alike, even using the leaf blowing machine on the Deputy Head’s hair to check it would be strong enough to spread the fire. Children in costume narrated the story of the fire and the rest of the pupils sang ‘London’s Burning’.
I could see how the MH Pakistan staff were so inspired by the school and its fun, interactive way of educating children. As we asked them about their experience in the UK, they spoke excitedly about all the great ideas and teaching techniques they wanted to take back to Pakistan with them.

Tanzeela, Head of Curriculum Assessment of Muslim Hands schools, expressed her interest in the multi-layered teaching approach of UK schools, where one theme would be explored through a range of different activities and across all subjects. Amna, Head teacher of the Islamabad School of Excellence, commented that, ‘at Parkinson Lane, the triangle of teacher, student and parent is very strong’ with parents being invited to participate in everything from the before-school breakfast club to morning assemblies. Hafeez and Tahseen were keen to develop ways of helping students in the Schools of Excellence to learn beyond books, something we had seen in action just half an hour earlier.
Parkinson Lane Community Primary School and the Islamabad School of Excellence also share many things in common. Both are teaching schools. Parkinson Lane provides teacher-training programmes and works with students completing teaching degrees at St John’s University in York. The Islamabad School, along with other Muslim Hands Schools of Excellence across the world, also provides training and teaching and curriculum advice to other primary and secondary schools.

Both schools are also raising standards in terms of the facilities they offer their students. As I mentioned earlier, the array of learning resources and spaces in Parkinson Lane is truly exceptional. Back in Pakistan, the Islamabad School of Excellence offers a computer lab, science lab and a library housing over 1,500 books. But the biggest similarity that struck me about these two learning institutions operating over 5,000 miles away from each other was the passion of the staff.

From the minute we arrived at Parkinson Lane Community Primary School we could see that everyone from the admin and reception staff to the Head teacher himself were completely dedicated to making the school a success. Their position in the top 5% of primaries in the UK was proof of their efforts. That same enthusiasm and commitment to learning emanated from the MH team and it was reassuring to see that the 454 needy students (123 of which are orphans) attending the Islamabad School of Excellence are receiving a quality education from such passionate teachers and education staff.

As the school day drew to a close we really were sad to be leaving. As we left Parkinson Lane we could see some of the children taking part in one of the seventy-two extra-curricular clubs that the school runs through the year and I thought of Mr Ahmed telling me about how badly Parkinson Lane was doing when he first joined fifteen years ago. In just four years the school had been through six different head teachers and it was ranked one of the lowest-achieving schools in the country.

What a transformation! I felt honoured that such a wonderful school had chosen to partner with Muslim Hands and with such positivity and passion for giving children an education and a future, evident in both the team here and the MH team from Pakistan I feel confident that it is a partnership that as well as benefitting students now, will benefit many more children to come.

By Tijen Horoz, Senior Communications Editor

Muslim Hands UK

Established in 1993, Muslim Hands is an aid agency and NGO helping those affected by poverty, conflict and natural disaster in over 20 countries worldwide.