Islamic childhood centre open to all cultures

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2014
Islamic early childhood centre
Chris Hillock/Fairfax NZ

READY TO ROLL: The Waikato’s first Islamic early childhood centre, Iqra Educare, is taking enrolments. Pictured are head teacher Natasha McCosh, left, governing board executive member Yasmin Khan, and teachers Leena Noorzai and Sophia Ali.

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The cultural mix planned for the Waikato's first Islamic early childhood centre means kids could be reading Cinderella, Ramadan Moon or a book in te reo.

Iqra Educare is on the site of the Boundary Road mosque in Hamilton and will bring together Islamic, Kiwi and Maori culture.

The centre is licensed for 30 pupils and is now open and accepting enrolments.

"It's been such an exciting journey for all of us," governing board executive member Yasmin Khan said.

"For some of the [Muslim community] parents, it's a big thing for them because it's in the premises of the mosque. So they can relate. They can feel comfortable. Because some of them do have language barriers."

A survey last year showed a large number of children in the local Muslim community weren't in early childhood education, so Iqra Educare was developed to help increase that number.

However, it is open to all ethnicities and the team welcomes interested families to drop in.

The centre's name, Iqra, is the first word in the Koran and means to read or to recite, Khan said.

The centre will have Islamic values and blend Islamic curriculum with New Zealand's early childhood curriculum Te Whariki.

A love for God, family and the community would be base values but Khan said it wasn't all about religion.

"We're not teaching them to memorise the Koran. It's just like any other centre but just having basic Islamic values."

The cultural immersion approach would be similar to the idea behind kohanga reo, she said.

Head teacher Natasha McCosh said they wanted to create a multicultural centre more representative of today's New Zealand.

Around ten children are enrolled up so far and there has been interest from families representing a variety of cultures, including Maori, Samoan, Afghan and Somalian.

Islamic values are reflected with halal food for the supplied morning and afternoon teas, no pork on the premises, and prayers before meals.

Children at the centre will also celebrate Islamic events like Ramadan and the festival of Eid (at the end of Ramadan), as well as important times like Matariki (the Maori New Year).

The centre is also inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach of an "emergent curriculum" which is partly determined by the children's interests.

Three qualified and registered teachers are employed at the centre. libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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