Port Shepstone Islamic School

timeless values for the modern age

Like all independent schools, Port Shepstone Islamic School (PSIS), an ISASA member in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), was established so that a community of parents and teachers could choose to educate their children according to their own values and principles.

Says headmaster Imran Khamissa, who qualified as a teacher at Darul Uloom Newcastle – an Institute of Higher Islamic Learning – and who has specialised qualifications in Arabic and school guidance and counselling: “We were worried about a perceived moral degeneration in local public schools. Children are always under pressure to be part of the crowd, and it’s increasingly difficult to get them to hold on to their religious beliefs. Parents in this area wanted to be greater participants in the education of their children, in a world that seemingly diminishes traditional Islamic values.”

This ISASA member had humble beginnings

Like many independent schools, PSIS also had humble beginnings. In 1994, it occupied two classrooms in a mosque in Albertsville, Port Shepstone on the south coast of KZN. Furniture and other basic resources were provided by the board of governors, comprising at the time a few concerned parents. Two educators served the needs of seven children in Grade 1 and five in Grade 2. Khamissa was one of them, in his role as head of department, Islamic Studies. As the school grew, so did his responsibilities and, by 2008, he was principal.

Today, PSIS owns its property (adjacent to the original location) on which can be found a science and biology laboratory, a library, a computer room and partitioned classrooms that convert into a second hall. “All the basic infrastructure is in place so that we can teach learners from grades 1–12,” says Khamissa proudly.

He doesn’t take any of PSIS’s gains lightly. Like many other independent school management teams he, his colleagues and the governing board have learned how challenging it can be to hold onto a founding ethos in turbulent times. “As demand grew in our community, we created a Grade 4, and then a Grade 6 class. Then came a request for a Grade 8 class. We found a distinct difference in the behaviour, mannerisms and attitudes of those pupils who had been with us from Grade 1 and those who had joined the school higher up. It became a bit of a challenge to maintain the kind of ethos we had envisaged.

At the same time, we were pressured in terms of space, using community Madressa classrooms until we could move to the larger property.”

The year 2002 was an anxious time for all at PSIS, says Khamissa. “It was the year our first matric class wrote their final school external examinations – the litmus test of our quality. All praise and thanks to the Almighty, the first set of matriculants performed excellently, bringing glory and honour to the school. The school has since then had a 100% matric pass and the distinction of being the top performer in the district.”

The only ISASA member school in KZN to offer Arabic

Having weathered some early storms, PSIS – like many other independent schools – has had the opportunity to reflect on its ethos and make it integral to the mission, purpose and future of the school. “Today, PSIS is an independent, coeducational day school underscored by Islam and catering to the secular and religious needs of the community in Albertsville and the surrounding suburbs of Port Shepstone. The school employs professionally qualified educators, religious teachers, and support and clerical staff. Currently 301 students are enrolled and our learner-to-teacher ratio is 25:1.

“But a school is more than a place for the transferral of knowledge and skills. We aim to develop the moral consciousness of our learners and instil in them the drive to strive for excellence.”

As we’ve mentioned, independent schools share many common features. Yet each one is, in its own way, unique. PSIS is the only ISASA school on the KZN south coast where Arabic is taught to every child until Grade 9. This focus reflects the school’s commitment to Muslim culture and religion. And as is the case in many countries, says Khamissa, at PSIS all pupils attend vernacular and religious instruction classes every day after school between 14:30 and 17:00.

“The aim of Islamic education is to fulfil our first objective in life, to faithfully serve the One Creator, God the Almighty. Islamic education also aims to achieve the balanced development of human beings; the spiritual, intellectual, physical, and psychological maturation both of individuals and the collective. Our independent status enables us to further these aims by tailor-making our educational approach.”

School rhythms punctuated by Islam

Not everyone is familiar with the tenets of Islam, or the way of life at an Islamic school. Talking to Khamissa is a true learning experience, and a way to appreciate the majesty and dignity of the religion that dates back to the early 600s and finds expression in this independent South African education environment. “Islam is a practical way of life. Its teachings are not confined to the mosque or to certain days or months. Students at PSIS are constantly encouraged to live the Islamic lifestyle of brotherhood, sincerity, honesty and accountability, and the teachings of Islam are entrenched in the school’s vision and mission, form part of our weekly assembly themes, and infuse our curriculum.

“Employing Muslim teachers is a way for PSIS to translate this faith-based curriculum into a daily lived reality in the classroom, while the presence of theologians on the premises serves as a constant spiritual guide.”

At PSIS, the rhythms of Islam punctuate every aspect of life and learning. Sounds of industriousness emanate from classrooms where boys and girls learn separately. On the sport field, and in the senior grades, intermingling of, and casual chit-chat between the sexes is discouraged. On the Muslim Friday Sabbath, school closes at 12:00 to allow staff and students to attend the services conducted at the mosque in congregation. And on a daily basis, the entire school attains peace in an assembly led by one of the resident theological scholars with student contributions. At 13:00, the boys congregate in the nearby mosque to offer the second of five obligatory daily prayers in congregation. Girls do the same in the school hall.

Independence a help and sometimes a hindrance PSIS values its ISASA member status, says Khamissa, because it’s an affirmation of the school’s right to autonomy. “We can, for example, pick and choose our educators, which means we can control who makes an impact on the impressionable minds of the children under our care.”

Being independent is not without its challenges, however, outlines Khamissa, and at times he feels despondent, citing rigorous state education department demands and a lack of timeous and accurate communication with department officials. Furthermore, “like many other independent schools, our financial resources are limited. A depleted state subsidy and the high cost of living create a burden for us and for our parents. We don’t want to turn people away because they cannot afford the fees that range from R8 400 to R11 000 per annum.

“Ironically, a perception exists in the larger community that being an independent school means that we are an elite school. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that we do what we can with what we have and more; extending financial assistance to those families that need help.” A further challenge is that the teachers PSIS seeks are also not readily available. “We lose teachers to the state schools because we cannot match the perks offered there. Specialist teachers are frequently unwilling to relocate to small towns like ours, and sometimes we are forced to employ teachers outside the Muslim faith, which is not ideal,” explains Khamissa.

Forward momentum

He brightens when it comes to talking about PSIS’s relationship with other Muslim schools across the country. “We enjoy sport-based relationships, and compete in volleyball, netball, athletics and soccer. Our students also participate in Olympiads and public speaking leagues organised by other Muslim schools. Educators across the network of South African Muslim schools, both public and private, share ideas and methodologies, and principals meet at least once a term, and participate in the conferences organised by the Association of Muslim Schools.”

Meeting with like-minded schools is stimulating, says Khamissa, and prompted PSIS to undertake a recent strategic planning indaba. With the assistance of an appropriate consultant, the school was able to revisit and contextualise its founding mission and values. The school has been able to capitalise on the forward momentum created by the event. A whole-school goal is to become financially self-sufficient.

“We’re also currently investigating how to integrate technology into our classes, in tandem with our continued success at science expos and fairs,” reports Khamissa. “We’re aware, however, that gaming, social networking and the internet are creating a whole new set of challenges for our school that we will have to address.”

The threat posed by social media will no doubt impact all schools, as children living in a digital era seek to fit in, take risks and explore. Khamissa’s confident, though, that at PSIS a strong religious grounding will serve students well as they make a life in an increasingly diverse society.

Says alumnus and qualified medical doctor, Khatija Jagot, from the class of 2002: “The Port Shepstone Islamic School provided me with a unique environment. Even the morning assembly provided inspiring quotes which instilled in me enduring Islamic principles and made me proud of being Muslim. We were blessed. In this age of Blackberrys, Facebook and Twitter where profiles and statuses are updated on the double, I’m glad that during our schooling days we had more time to just live in the moment and reflect on the values we were being taught.”

Category: Featured Articles, Winter 2012

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Comments (14)

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  1. rubbiakhalid says:

    this school is best in P.S.

  2. Nolitha Nomazele says:

    Hi,

    I would like to know, Do you take non Islamic children to learn in your school?

    Regards!
    Nolita

  3. Saide Ali says:

    Salaam Aleikum
    I am a teacher in Swaziland, Sifundzani High School I know what ISASA quality is about. I’m really immpressed with your muslim culture based ethos.
    My school ‘Christian faith based’ respects other religions, but as a parent, I would most honoured if my daughter attended a muslim school.
    Do you offer boarding facilities? If need be I can also offer my services. I am a qualified maths and science teacher.15yrs.
    Wasallam.

  4. Pndile says:

    Hi
    I like 2 knw hw much r da fees n wat grades do u take

  5. benedictor says:

    Do you non islamic and also children from grade2 to grade12. HOW ARE THE FEES.

    THANKS
    0789174781

  6. Andiswa says:

    Hi
    i am looking for a place frm grade 8 for boy nd grade 9for girl for 2016 . I will be gland if u can reply soon.

  7. sana says:

    yes! our school take non muslim students.

  8. Amina says:

    I am looking for a place for a grade 11 for a girl

  9. Amina says:

    For a girl in grade 11, as soon as possible and with less fees

  10. Ntombi Boyce says:

    Hi my name is Ntombi Boyce I’m looking for boarding school for my son he is doing grade 4 this year and also information about fees he is a Christian but I love him to learn about religious thanks

  11. Sanele says:

    Hi I like to know about school my son is doing grade 6 this year

  12. Bathobile says:

    hi Bathobile I would to apply my child if u do have an space for nest year, for grade 8,and also info about fees, thnks ,my details 0604408367

  13. khathija ngubane says:

    Asalam alaikumu warahmatulah wabarakatu I need to applay for my grandson he want to do grade eleven this year I wish to keep him in a baording where he csn learn more about Islam jazakallahu khair

  14. nonjabulo says:

    hi im looking for a school for a girl for grade 8 clases nest i woulk like to know if it a boarding school and also how are the fees

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