“Teaching is a gift that one has been selected to do. I’ve been priviledged by Allah Azza Wa Jall for many years with this great task”. Muallimah Kaashifa Asmal Jamal began the honourable task of teaching (privately) since 1998. In the year 2001 she agreed to privately tutor a boy diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). He learnt well but left the next year due to his change of residence. Thereafter she tutored teenage girls including a five year old girl. This little girl remained with her until the age of eleven.
Mu’allimah Kaashifa also home-schooled children from grades one to four as well as tahfeedh classes. “Children came and went and between 2005 to 2006, I only tutored three children in 2005”.
“I was encouraged by my sister who had started Ummul Hasanaat Newcastle in 2006 to teach ‘formally‘ incase my numbers increased” says Muallimah Kaashifa. So I established Ummul Hasanaat Gauteng/Johannesburg and the amount of students increased. The following year (2007), eight more children had joined the private tuition and the number of children had grown to eleven. By 2008 she had fifteen students. “It was challenging. I had four of my own kids including my extended family.. my fifteen students. Home schooling was too taxing and I dropped it to take up my now full time madrasah”.
During this year, five of her students had learning disabilities or attention deficits. “I accepted to teach them because I had experience before and I wanted to make a difference in their lives. It seemed so daunting to attempt a task that so many others have failed. These children were ridiculed in the madrasah’s they previously attended prior to attending mine”. The children were nervous but Muallimah Kaashifa took up this great amaanah and has never looked back. “It has been challenging on both sides”. Muallimah Kaashifa admits teaching children with severe ADHD is not an easy task but the most amazing thing is that these children follow a fairly normal syllabus as children with out ADHD do. Wait, it gets better.
NOTHING is changed apart from Muallimah having to find interesting ways too keep them learning albeit at a much slower pace than the rest of the class. “These children work so hard, they work harder than the one’s who rely on their sharp memory”. Someone asked Muallimah Kaashifa how she managed to teach children with learning disabilities as well as those without. She answered, “Small numbers is the key. I try to keep the pace for the sharper ones and the ‘not so sharp’. For example, when it comes to examinations and tests, those with ADHD are tested orally on almost all their subjects. I take it upon myself to personally write in the answers of eleven year old children because I know that they have learnt their work. I believe in them. Why should they attain a low mark or worse, fail, just because their spelling is not good or writing illegible. If that is the case then I have failed in what I have set out to do”. It is this caring and compassion that has a huge impact on their self image. For once they don’t have to be in a special madrasah. They sit next to ‘normal’ children in a regular madrasah with a big difference.
“Some parents thought that it would be a problem for their kids to learn side by side with those who have learning disabilities or children taking Ritalin. But all we proved was an increase in love, respecting others for who they are and that after all said and done, we are all pretty much the same. Nobody is better than the next but (as Allah himself says in The Qur’aan) those who are most pious. And Allah alone is the judge of that” says Mu’allimah Kaashifa.
There is a lot of camaraderie and teamwork in class. Children are paired off and this helps greatly, be it regarding new tasks or studying for exams. Exams are written from grades three and up. Currently Madrasah Ummul Hasanaat Gauteng only has students up to Grade Eight. For those without learning disabilities, their tolerance, love and perseverance is truly remarkable. It is a wonderful atmosphere for Ta’leem and Ta’allum. As Muallimah Kaashifa so fondly speaks of them, “They give me a reason to look forward to my afternoons. They are my superstars!”. Of course, all this could not be possible without the parents of the students at Ummul Hasanaat Gauteng.
“The parents who persevere and are always helping their children with learning and homework are a big part of Ummul Hasanaat’s success. I am blessed with dedicated students and appreciative parents. When that unfolds, what better could a teacher ask for”.
Muallimah Kaashifa holds a special place in her heart for all her students. One would ask where does she draw her strength from other than turning to Allah? She replies ”My own children, especially my son Abdur Rahmaan who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2009. Allah has taught me so much more in his growing years. I have reached new limits, developed a better sense of tolerance, a need to equip him to face the big, bad world out there, and an encompassing love and compassion from Allah that only a mother would understand and give her child when everyone thinks that your child is different and you know who he really is. It is with this understanding and compassion that I teach others as if they were my own.”
May Allah grant Madrasah Ummul Hasanaat Gauteng success upon success to continue the wonderful work of ta’leem and ta’allum of deen.