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SCHOOL FOCUS: Dar Arabic School

Karam Ghabash, Ali El-Dhuwaib, and teacher Manal Shbat
Karam Ghabash, Ali El-Dhuwaib, and teacher Manal Shbat
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At weekends and evenings when most schools have closed the doors, the Dar Arabic School is bustling with noise and excitement of children learning.

It is one of around 20 heritage language schools run by different black and ethnic minority groups across the city, teaching more than 16 languages.

The second level class at Dar Arabic School

The second level class at Dar Arabic School

At the heart of all the schools is the basic premise of learning their mother tongue language and instilling in the children the values of their communities.

The Dar Arabic School was only formed in September 2017, and stemmed from the creation of the Waha Community Centre, which opened in the February of the same year.

Based at the U-Mix Centre, in Lowfield, the school opens every Saturday with the majority of children learning Arabic, while the community centre-side of things focuses around holding events around major celebrations.

It is run purely by a volunteers, who fund the school along with contributions from parents.

Lana Monim, deputy headteacher Bilal El-Dhuwaib, Nadia AlSakani, Lily Aljoudeh and Rytal Taha

Lana Monim, deputy headteacher Bilal El-Dhuwaib, Nadia AlSakani, Lily Aljoudeh and Rytal Taha

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Children who attend the school do so for a variety of reasons - some recently moving to Britain and wanting to maintain their own language while others have parents from a country who want them to learn the language.

Deputy headteacher Bilal El-Dhuwaib, a dentist and university lecturer, said: "I was born in this country but my family moved back to Iraq. When I finished university I came back over.

"When you start having kids you realise that you want them to maintain their heritage as well as integrating into UK society.

The third level upper class at Dar Arabic Schhol

The third level upper class at Dar Arabic Schhol

"When more people came over to Sheffield the base of people becomes wider and there is more scope for activities to be done. Kids have started to get involved and started to form their own identities.

"We started with the idea of having a community group - it had become a necessity as the community got bigger and then we opened the school."

Headteacher Sa'ad Al-Asali, who has a PhD in linguistics and translation with ten years experience working in universities as an assistant professor, believes that "strong support for dual language learners helps build and maintain strong social connections and social resilience".

“Diversity will be appreciated and positively valued – a sense of belonging for all communities,” he said.

Ahmed Monim,teacher Lana Kaheel, Jude Al-Nabo,Lolia Darwich. Pictures Steve Ellis

Ahmed Monim,teacher Lana Kaheel, Jude Al-Nabo,Lolia Darwich. Pictures Steve Ellis

“Appropriate early learning efforts are essential to a child’s personal and professional development."

He added: "The school initially began with a handful of close Iraqi families, but has quickly expanded.”

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"Initially it was just children from Iraqi families but after that people came from different communities.

"We now have third generation children coming to learn Arabic.

"We are proud to say we are one of only few specialised Arabic schools in the UK who apply modern teaching methods to support their culture-specific language style.

Dar Arabic Schol pupils with teachers

Dar Arabic Schol pupils with teachers

"We have developed a comprehensive curriculum with an extensive holistic approach to gain a thorough understanding of the culture and heritage associated with the Arabic language and their roots.

"We provide a range of specialised subject knowledge, such as morphology, contrastive grammar, semantic network - vocabulary - and paragraph writing.

“These subjects are delivered through various innovative and communicative methods incorporated into stories, poems, phonics songs, Powerpoint language game show, drawing and colouring, photographs and animated video clips, making learning fun and interesting.

"Exercises are undertaken at classroom in pairs to strengthen verbal skills in an interactive learning environment and at home to add more substantial linguistic gains.

"All materials and homework can be accessed via electronic devices.

"We believe in a well rounded education. It's not just about being a language school - we teach many different things such as sports, music and drama drawing on good practice.

"A broad range of after-school activities are offered to extend learning opportunities beyond school hours and enrich the opportunities to attain remarkable achievements.

"We fund ourselves so when we raise the money we can put on an activity, bringing the community together and raising cultural awareness," Dr Al-Asali added.

Dr El-Dhuwaib believes that being bilingual will be an asset for youngsters in their careers, and hopes that with more members of the community going onto university and successful careers, it will inspire future generations

"Some people move here and see themselves as European and believe they should only live the European way," he said.

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"Others say they are Arabic and say they should only live the Arabic way.

"We start in the middle - we live both ways. I am supportive of my kids celebrating Christmas and sometimes when we celebrate Eid I have taken food and sweets to work to raise awareness and they celebrate with me as well.

"That mixes the best of both worlds. It's not easy and takes a lot of work."

The school is run around three main pillars - belonging, integrating and upscalling - with parents involved in the school as much as the children.

"We are open to everybody. There are three pillars to our vision," Dr El-Dhuwaib added.

"Belonging - we want everyone to feel like they belong to something, integrating into the community they live in and upscalling, being able to believe in themselves and promoting their aspirations.

"We are helping everybody, the parents as well as the children. With regards to the children we are helping them with teaching sessions.

"With parents we try to help them by training them so they get the experience and have the opportunity to work in the field of teaching."

Dr Al-Asali said the management team was currently in search of a new venue, with the ideal location being a school building.

"We open at weekends, which is when most schools are closed, so it would be great if we could find somewhere like that," he said.

Anyone that can help with finding the school a new location should email edarcentre@gmail.com

Dar Arabic School teachers

Dar Arabic School teachers