This Ramadan, I will be sharing some “secrets” or perhaps little known or told information about living in the Muslim countries and
how you can raise an Arabic-speaking family WHILE YOU ARE RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, You see,
I keep getting emails from sisters asking me ‘how can I get over there?’
(I have been Qatar almost 8 years, and on my way back to the U.S. ) HOW CAN I EXPLAIN THE REALITY? WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST FOR 10 YEARS AND STILL DON’T KNOW ARABIC OR QURAN AND NEITHER DO THEIR CHILDREN???
So we think going overseas to the Arabic speaking countries is the answer and we start to dream. Some of us even pack up all our stuff, give up our Western life and move. I did that, more than once… The first time to Egypt back in 1995, then Saudi Arabia from 1999 – 2004. But I did not have any children then; different experience.
In 2011, I got a teaching job in Qatar. I HAD MY IQAMA (RESIDENCE VISA), MY ‘GOOD JOB’ AND FREE TUITION FOR MY DAUGHTER
We made it to the Promised Land !
Well, kind of…
You move to the Land of the Muslims with sincere heart and people don’t realize, it may be a struggle to maintain that sincerity…
My professional experience was pretty amazing! I learned so much!
But my daughter’s experience was something very different…
Being the only 1 of 3 non-Qatari children in the whole grade level (Years 1, 2, and 3) I realized the bullying was a problem towards the end of the 1st year. So before the 2nd year I had the Enrollment lady put the 3 foreigners in the same class; my daughter and 2 Egyptians. People talk of Racism in the U.S.A. but this was so much more than colorism. The Egyptians were vanilla skinned and just as rejected and bullied; didn’t matter… they were outsiders. There was one little Qatari girl, Aisha al-Ka’bi, Allah yah-deeha, she was a big girl and she used to say to the other girls, “If you love me, then hit Aamina!” So they would do it. Getting my child into the classroom in the morning became traumatic at one point, she would cry because she didn’t want to go into the class.
Then there was the academic issue. After 3 years, her spoken Arabic was good, she had also memorized some Quran, hadith and poetry, and she could understand 3 different Arabic dialects. There was a lot of memorizing but at the end of year 2 I realized my child could not actually read; not Arabic, nor English. I didn’t concern myself too much with the English literacy at that time my main concern was the Arabic.
The best part of the primary school was the Quran teachers, several were from Syria and they had a beautiful way of teaching. And when the budget cuts came in the 2nd year, they were the first to be cut. Everything went downhill from there.
I HAVE TO BE HONEST, THE SITUATION WAS EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING
We had to learn 2-3 different Arabic dialects in order to learn Fus-ha, the pure Arabic of Quran. You see, in the Gulf Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar) the native kids speak Najdi dialect, but the teachers are Egyptian or Jordanian, so the kids also have to understand their dialects.
This along with the BULLYING and bad behavior, teachers who are there for a paycheck and always comparing their low pay to English teachers high pay. (I talk about this in another blog post).
The sacrifice of my child’s character and self-esteem at that tender age JUST to get the Arabic language and EVEN THEN WHAT SHE GOT WAS NOT NEARLY WHAT SHE WAS GETTING BEFORE LEAVING THE U.S.!!!
It took 2 1/2 years in homeschool to undo the damage. (Wallahi, I wish I was exaggerating)
إنَّا لله وإنَّ إليْهِ راجِعُونَ
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raa’jioon
I had to humble myself and realize my mistakes and realize that I had actually been onto something before I left the U.S. ….
Well, I will continue tomorrow inshaAllah, you can read, comment if you like.
This is the course I will be teaching during Ramadan to show you how you can RAise Children Who Speak Arabic (even if you don’t). Take the first lesson for free if you like:
Ustatha Nadiya Johnson
Arabic for non-Arabs.