It is the month of Ramadan and many students, staff, and faculty are celebrating. As with so many special occasions this year, COVID restrictions mean that the celebration of Ramadan is different for many which may come with feelings of sadness and missed connections. This piece by Global News shows how Canadians are celebrating Ramadan so that feelings of isolation are reduced during this time where families and communities typically come together.
The following letter was written by educator and equity consultant Samiyah Nageeb to help schools understand and recognize the impact of Ramadan on students and staff who practice Islam. She has given permission for schools to adapt this letter as needed to suit their school, and she gave us permission to share it here. The resource links are excellent, so be sure to check them out.
Our school strives to respect and appreciate all cultures and faith traditions and to be responsive to diverse needs. I am writing to inform you of an upcoming Islamic tradition that may impact Muslim students and staff that practice Islam.
The month of Ramadan, is a month of fasting and an increase of night-prayers for Muslims all around the world. Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar. This year, it is expected to begin the evening of April 12. Muslims abstain from all food and drink between dawn and sunset each day during the month, which lasts 29 or 30 days. Muslims with health issues are exempt from fasting.
Despite the physical challenges, Ramadan is a time of joy, spiritual fulfillment, and greater God-consciousness for Muslims. It also makes us more sensitive of our duty to share our blessings with those in need.
I would like to share some information that may help you be mindful of your Muslim students that may be fasting for around 14.5 hours a day. During Ramadan, folks eat an initial meal before dawn (before 5 am) and a second meal after sunset (around 7:30 pm).[a] After sunset, folks may go to the mosque or stay at home and do prayers well into the night. Thus, the first week of the blessed month can be difficult in terms of adjusting to a different eating and sleeping schedule. Most Muslims manage to be back on track by the second week. For others, it may take longer or it may be more difficult. Please note that the absence of food and drink, along with getting less sleep due to the lengthy night prayers, can make one sluggish and/or affect concentration. Fasting during the month of Ramadan can cause headaches, fatigue and dehydration.
Offer alternatives for assignments that are physical in nature
Give fasting students the option to have extended time for assignments/assessments
Set aside an empty room where students can pray, take a short nap during their lunch break, and/or simply escape the drinks/ food in the lunch room
Give students an option to opt out of end-of-the-year class potluck/parties where there will be food/drink and/or have a to-go box[b]
If you want to present Muslim students with the option to share something about Ramadan, give them advanced notice and ask them in private with an allowance to say no
Here are some ideas from Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) for sharing information with your students
Thank you for your time and attention.
[a]The length of fasting and the times for sunrise and sunset will vary based on your location.
[b]These may not apply this year due to eating/ social distancing restrictions