Malek Fahd loses appeal to have funding returned

Australia’s largest Islamic school has lost up to $19 million in Commonwealth funding. Photo: Nic Walker Parents and students protest at Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney’s west Photo: Michele Mossop
Nanjing Night Net

AFIC President Hafez Kassem (right) with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at Parliament House. Photo: AFIC

AFIC President Hafez Kassem (L) with Phillip Ruddock Photo: AFIC

Commonwealth axes government funding to Islamic schoolMalek Fahd: Hundreds call for sacking of school board at protest meeting

Schools in western Sydney will have to absorb up to 2400 students as one of the state’s largest schools looks set to shut down.

On Monday, the Malek Fahd Islamic school in Greenacre lost an appeal to have $19 million in federal government funding reinstated.

The decision came after a Federal Department of Education investigation found the private school was operating for profit following allegations of six-figure loans to board members while basic services went unfunded.

In March, police had to be called to a meeting of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, the charity that formerly oversaw the 26-year-old school and five other Islamic schools across the country, after tensions between competing factions spilled over and students protested against the school’s management.

AFIC and the school’s lawyer, Rick Mitry, said the public infighting had not helped the school at a crucial time.

“They are all mad to be honest,” he said. “It has got to hurt. I would imagine that the powers that be know that there is a lot of trouble there. It is just madness to conduct these public disputes at such a fragile time for the school.”

The decision from the Federal Department of Education means funding will dry up by Friday, the last day of term. Despite being a private institution, the school and five others operated by AFIC rely on public funding for 75 per cent of their income.

Mr Mitry said the school had enough money to last for two more months, but estimates from the school’s previous board said one week was more realistic.

Should the school collapse, more than 2000 students could be absorbed into schools in the local area.

Rouse Hill, Ironbark Ridge, Beaumont Hills and Kellyville public schools are all available to take students, according to NSW Department of Education.

“The Department has a number of primary and secondary schools near the Malek Fahd Islamic School campuses with capacity to accommodate additional students,” the spokesman said.

On Monday, Senator Birmingham stood behind his decision to halt funding to Malek Fahd and another AFIC school, the Islamic School of Canberra. A decision on future funding for four other AFIC schools is due to be made on April 11.

“Australians rightly expect that every taxpayer dollar committed to school education is genuinely expended on school education,” he said.

Mr Mitry said the school would seek a stay to prevent the federal government from halting funding on Friday.

“It’s not the end of the day by any means,” he said.

AFIC, a charity, is also under investigation by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission over concerns its board members used the charity for private benefits such as overseas trips and lawyers’ fees.

In March, Fairfax Media revealed the charity hosted a glittering event at the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra, when Labor leader Bill Shorten, retiring father of the house Phillip Ruddock and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove all feted AFIC members.

AFIC’s schools lacked basic services recently, such as air-conditioning in 36-degree classrooms, parents have told Fairfax Media.

Malek Fahd has since appointed an interim board in in a last-ditch effort to stop the school from closing. The board includes the bursar of The Kings School, Geoff Dorman, the first female Muslim chief executive of TAFE South Australia, Miriam Silva, and respected veteran NSW public school principal Martyn Bawden.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Comments are closed.