Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims, requiring them to abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk.
There are over a billion Muslims worldwide, many spread across countries like the US, UK, Canada and India. This year’s fast is held from May to June.
While healthy adults are expected to fast, young children are not expected to do so until they hit puberty. Despite that, many children still observe the fast by fasting for half the day, or sometimes in full.
Abstaining from food and drink is no easy feat – even for adults. So what are some things teachers can do to ensure their students’ well-being while in school? Here are some suggestions:
Learn about Ramadan
Just want to share what my 13 years old son’s teacher 👩🏫 at school did today out of respect for #Ramadhan when she came to know that he was fasting even though she herself is not #Muslim.
Lots of respect and love for her❤️❤️ #NoHomeWorkDuringRamadhan pic.twitter.com/Xs2n1bTYWJ
— Shahjhan Malik (@shahjhan_malikk) May 9, 2019
If you’re unfamiliar with how Ramadan works, it helps to do some research about what it’s all about.
“Muslims have to abstain from eating, drinking, ingesting medications, smoking (which is generally frowned upon in Islam) and sexual intercourse. A single sip of water or coffee, or a puff of a cigarette, is enough to invalidate the fast,” notes The Sydney Morning Herald.
An understanding of why Muslims fast and what must be avoided can prevent teachers from making potentially offending remarks, like encouraging them to eat at a class event when a student is observing the fast.
Teach your class about Ramadan
It can be a very lonely affair for a tiny population of students, or when you have a student who is the sole Muslim in the class or even the year, to fast in a school environment.
It helps to create an awareness in your classroom about Ramadan to help fasting students feel more included. This can help their classmates understand why they do not eat during birthdays or class celebrations to keep them from feeling left out.
All it takes is a few minutes to explain these facts to help foster a more understanding environment for all students.
Provide a space for fasting students to rest during lunch breaks
Lunch breaks are a time for students to refuel and rest.
While fasting students may be accustomed to having people eat around them and may be perfectly fine with it, it also helps if teachers or the school can provide students with the option to go to an empty classroom where they’re free to rest, read or relax should they choose to do so, rather than be surrounded by other students who are eating.
Make accommodations for students during physical education (PE) classes
PE lessons can be gruelling for fasting students who may be experiencing low blood sugar levels, so keep an eye out for them. If possible, provide alternative and less rigorous exercises for them, or the choice to be excluded from PE, depending on the school’s policy.
Parkdale Centre for Innovation Executive Director, Rusul Alrubail, notes: “Teachers can make accommodations for practising students, such as assigning a different task/project for students to complete that does not require them to do any strenuous work while they’re fasting.”