Plans for Islamic primary school in Mechelen

Summary

The non-profit Islamic Education Mechelen has announced its plans for the establishment of the first school for Muslim children in Flanders

Segregation, says alderman

A non-profit organisation in Mechelen has started a collection to establish a primary school for Muslim children – the first in Flanders. The school would welcome both Muslim and non-Muslim students, reported Gazet van Antwerpen.

According to the paper, about 12,000 Muslims live in Mechelen. Since the first migration wave 50 years ago, youngsters have been attending Flemish public schools. “Unfortunately, we find that many youngsters don’t finish school and don’t move on to higher education,” Saïd Bouazza, president of the non-profit Islamic Education Mechelen, commented. “As a result, they have troubles finding jobs and some suffer from identity crises.”

These issues have convinced parents in the Muslim community to make preparations to launch their own school. With the help of the mosques in Mechelen, they are working to collect €600,000. They then hope to receive recognition and subsidies from the government of Flanders. This would be the region’s first such school; Brussels is home to three Islamic schools.

“We think we have enough expertise to get children excited about school,” explained Bouazza. “We want to address the language and learning deficits among Muslim students by involving the parents heavily in their education and by supporting their identity as Muslims.”

Mechelen’s education alderman Marc Hendrickx is not happy with the project. “This is segregation, while the city wants to work on a common future for all Mechelaars,” he said. Bouazza responded that a similar school in the Dutch city of Maastricht has shown that the concept works and that his organisation’s first priority is providing a quality education to both Muslim and non-Muslim children.

Bouazza also added that they want to instil active citizenship in the students. “Our motto is to build a harmonious society with attention for everyone’s identity,” he said. “The project is to the benefit of the whole community.”

Photo courtesy GO! Education

Educational system

The Flemish educational system is divided into two levels: primary (age six to 12) and secondary school (12 to 18). Education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and 18.
Types - There are three educational networks in Flanders: the Flemish Community’s GO! network, and publicly funded education – either publicly or privately run.
Not enough space - In recent years, Flemish schools have been struggling with persistent teacher shortages and a growing lack of school spaces.
No tuition fees - Nursery, primary and secondary school are free in Flanders.
1

million school-going children in 2013

30

million euros Flemish education budget for new school infrastructures in 2013

11

percent of boys leaving secondary school without a diploma