Carrollton Program Lets Ismaili Muslim Parents, Kids Share Learning Experience

December 10, 2009

Author: Dianne Solis

Source: The Dallas Morning News

Class springs to attention with the Pledge of Allegiance. Five-year-old Saniya Khoja takes the lead, twirling a red-white-and-blue flag the size of a napkin. Little ones with hands over hearts recite "... one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all." Then, Saniya and her classmates sing "Are You Sleeping, Brother John?" Voices rise in Arabic greetings. Mothers and a few fathers join in harmony.

This is an after-school program for Ismaili Muslim children in Carrollton at their social and spiritual center, known as a jamatkhana. And the program emphasizes an essential that public schools have tried to inspire for decades: parental involvement.

"This is the secret sauce," said Gulzar Babool, the national program director for the Ismaili Learning Center for Parents and Children. "It is what makes it successful."

The program at the Learning Center for Parents and Children emphasizes early literacy and school readiness and "empowers mothers to assimilate in this community," Babool said.

Ismailis are a minority within the Shia sect of the broader Muslim world of 1.5 billion. And Ismailis are 10,000 strong in North Texas.

The program is a fusion of traditional and Montessori teaching methods. Montessori methods generally are characterized by the absence of tests and grades and allow for small group instruction.