|Books for Schools was launched earlier this year as an initiative of MCBDirect, its primary aim being to provide mainstream schools with accurate, interactive, user friendly resources to complement the teaching of Islam within the RE curriculum. Members of the community are encouraged to sponsor packs for their local schools.
The project was officially launched to the Muslim community in March 2004 in Manchester to an audience of almost 400 attendees and money was raised to sponsor packs for local schools. Mick Waters, Manchester's Chief Education Officer who was present as a distinguished guest, was so impressed with the project that he immediately requested a follow on conference where resources could be presented to an audience of Manchester school heads, RE teachers and members of SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education). The key people who would eventually utilise the resources.
On the 30th of June, a delegation of the Books for Schools team travelled to Manchester to present this innovative project at a conference organised by Manchester LEA and hosted by the local SACRE body. They were greeted by approximately 50 attendees representing the majority of local schools. After a hearty welcome by Councillor Tommy Judge, Head of SACRE, Tahir Alam, Chair of the MCB Education committee, delivered a clear and detailed overview of the project, commenting on the lack of Islamic resources available in schools today and highlighting the importance of sharing common values, at a time when misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Islam are rife.
This was followed by interactive presentations of both the Primary and Secondary resources, including the rationale behind the development of the custom made teacher and pupil resources. These interactive presentations were particularly well received, and the audience participation helped to provide a hands-on understanding of the breadth of the teachers' support materials. A Nasheed (Islamic song), which forms part of a pupil exercise , was particularly well received and was viewed as a refreshing and innovative method of imparting the teachings of Islam in a child friendly manner. Needless to say the audience was extremely impressed and showed an eager enthusiasm to obtain these vibrant resources for use in their own schools.
Local headteachers positively contributed to the evenings proceedings, particularly through emphasising the fact that respect for any religion can only be achieved through education and understanding, which in turn will create acceptance between cultures and a harmonious society.
The conference was concluded with a vote of thanks to the Books for Schools team from Mr Mick Waters, Chief Education Officer of Manchester City, for the professional presentations and assured the team of his continuing support. In his charismatic delivery, Mr Waters reminded the audience of some simple truths about the intrinsic good nature of people and children, their thirst for knowledge and wondering about the world they live in, and how we are responsible for nurturing an honest and healthy understanding of this world.
The B4S team is now working towards having the primary resource packs ready for distribution to schools in pilot LEAs such as Manchester in the new academic year. This is an exciting time for the campaign and the Muslim community at large. The MCB feels that the Books campaign will be a major contribution to a more accurate teaching of Islam in Britain and consequently a positive step to enhancing community relations in this country.