An investigation into student needs in complementary Ismaili Muslim schooling in Toronto

Shezeleen Kanji was working in a complementary school in the Shia Imami Ismaili Religious Education (RE) system in Toronto, Canada when this study was conducted in 2010. In this system, denominational RE classes are run by professional teachers in Ismaili places of worship outside of mainstream school hours.  A new programme for the Religious Education of Ismaili Muslim secondary age pupils was in its inaugural phases at this time. Prior to the introduction of this new programme, no data had been collected around student emotional and social needs. Based on her observations in the RE spaces in the west sector of Toronto she noticed some students appeared to lack self-esteem, felt isolated among their peers, were victims of bullying, felt stressed about coming to the RE space, or had physical or learning disabilities that could not be addressed. At the time, there was no parent council or a platform for students to be able to voice their needs. In addition, the governance model of this system was also still evolving; there was felt to be a need for an institutional model with a focus on addressing the needs of the community’s young people. This study examined the organization and governance structures for the complementary school programme to see if they could be altered to best care for student needs specifically in the areas of academic, social, emotional, safety and security needs.

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