Madrasah Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah Primary and Secondary School 

MWTI celebrated its National Day Observance Ceremony quite differently in 2020, with 'Live' streams broadcasted in our students' classrooms. Under normal circumstances, such a celebration would take place in our school hall.

Bearing Patience During the Pandemic

Singapore - At the heart of Paya Lebar, Singapore, some 500 Muslim students and teachers gather each morning at the school hall to supplicate for the safety and wellbeing of all. Dressed smartly in their well-pressed uniforms and led by their Head Prefect, the students melodiously recite the same verses in perfect harmony, timing and humility.

More than just a routine school assembly, this act of worship, which they religiously perform daily, signifies the social and spiritual ties that bind each member of the Madrasah Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah (MWTI) family. It is a sacred union, where verses of the Qur'an are recited and life-changing lessons on hope, faith and love are shared.

The sound of the school bell has always been special to everyone - marking the start, the transitions in between and the end of a school day. Like the heartbeat of the school, it regulates the movement of people from point to point and from activity to activity.

The chime symbolises happiness, freedom and progress.

Yet, it is often overlooked and taken for granted as nothing more than a sound in the background. On a typical school day, who would have thought that at one point in time, the school bells at MWTI would continue to ring without the presence of its students and teachers?

Enter COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which first emerged slightly more than a year ago in Wuhan, China, schools all over the world experienced great uncertainty, discomfort and disruption.

When it was announced on mainstream media that schools in Singapore would be shifting to full home-based learning from April 8 to May 4, the team of academic and religious teachers, led by their Principal, Ustazah Masnia Nassim, quickly adapted to the circumstances by generating fresh ideas, exploring new platforms and curating lesson packages, and digitising their resources to immediately cater to the learning needs of their students.

Ustazah Masnia said, "As a school, we hope for the best and the competency of our staff and the quality of our students' education are of utmost importance. When it was announced that schools would have to be temporarily closed, we ensured what we could and offered support to everyone who needed them."

Under the guidance and supervision of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), MWTI took decisive and calculated steps to ensure that the educational experiences meant for all continued to be purposeful, systematic and impactful.

Here are some of the strategies adopted by the school:

1. Home-Based Learning (HBL)

After performing her dawn prayers in congregation with her family, Pre-University One (2020) student Khalisah Binti Mohamad Hamim started her school day in a completely different setting - home.

The 18-year old student, who aspires to be an educator, shared that COVID-19 and HBL offered her the opportunity to research, innovate and learn how to be a more independent student.

She said, "During the 'Circuit Breaker' period, where schools shifted their lessons online, my General Paper teacher assigned us a research task. I explored the theme of 'Environment' and discovered that research is not easy but definitely rewarding."

The challenges of adapting to online learning were real, especially for well-seasoned teachers of the school who were accustomed to the traditional face-to-face classroom arrangements.

Said Ustazah Sidah Haron, a religious teacher who has served the school for close to 30 years, conducting online lessons on Zoom and Microsoft Teams was challenging at first but it had to be carried out for the greater good.

She said, "Not being able to physically face my students during lessons was psychologically very difficult and not as fulfilling. It took quite some time for me to get used to communicating with my students and their parents online."