The Arabic Language School at Firvale Centre, founded and supported by the Yemeni Community, is threatened with closure as funding dwindles.
Started in 1990 at the Yemeni Centre on Burngreave Road, the School moved into the Firvale Centre three and a half years ago, when three year New Deal Funding was granted.
The upper floor of the centre reverberates to the sound of over 160 children (more girls than boys) on Fridays 5–8pm and Saturdays 11am–3pm. Eleven tutors, some being university students and all but one volunteers, teach eight classes ranging from 6-year-old beginners to 17-year olds studying GCSE/A-Level Arabic and the history and geography of their families’ countries of origin. Though most students are from the Yemeni community, there are also children from other middle-eastern countries and Malaysia.
The combined effort of this community language school and the teaching of Arabic, a major world language, at local secondary schools and colleges means that many of the pupils go on to achieve excellent grades in Arabic at GCSE and A level. For example, of 17 young people who took GCSE Arabic at Fir Vale Secondary School, 12 achieved grade A or A*.
I was welcomed by the headmaster, Mr Musaid Al-Hakim who, after accompanying me around the various classes and showing me the resources available, stated: “To provide the current curriculum, without paid tutors, the school needs around £22k per annum to cover rent, services and resources. To provide the service I would prefer, would at least double that figure.”
The one paid worker, Omar, was employed three months ago under the local apprenticeship scheme. He told me: “The school also sports an under-16 football team which trains once a week and organises well attended end of term trips to places of interest for pupils and their families.”
Though there are other Arabic language schools in Sheffield they charge fees up to £250 per term. The Firvale Centre asks only £20 per pupil per year and even less if siblings attend from the same family. Most local families would not be able to afford any more than this.
Applications for future funding have been made to various trusts, so far with little success.
For more information contact Musaid Al-Hakim at:
The Arabic School, Fir Vale Centre, Earl Marshal Road, Sheffield S4 8LA.
Telephone: 0114 256 0933
by Saleema Imam