Understanding Ramadan fosters a more inclusive community

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Ramadan is a period of deep spiritual reflection and celebration that sees Muslims pray and fast from food, drink and other physical needs before breaking their fast, with friends and family, at sunset each evening.

There can be many misconceptions about Ramadan, so this guide may help you better support children in your classrooms or your child’s friendship groups.

The Holy Month in the Islamic calendar officially began yesterday, Tuesday 12 March, following the first night of Ramadan starting after sunset on Monday 11 March.

Since the calendar is informed by the Moon cycle, Ramadan falls around 11 days earlier each year. The period of Ramadan for 2024 was confirmed by the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamad.

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“The Australian National Imams Council and the Australian Fatwa Council acknowledge, understand and respect the Imams and scholars who may hold a different opinion, and request all Muslims to respect the different opinions on this matter and work towards the unity of the Muslim community in preserving the common values and interests that they all have and share,” he said in a statement.

Understanding Ramadan helps support students

Ramadan is a period of deep spiritual reflection and celebration that sees Muslims pray and fast from food, drink and other physical needs before breaking their fast, with friends and family, at sunset each evening.

Data from the 2021 Australian Census shows the number of people who identify as Islamic has grown to 813,392 people, which is 3.2 per cent of the Australian population. The figures mean Islam is the second largest religioun in Australia.

For Australian educators and students sharing school playgrounds and classrooms with those adhering to the Ramadan fasting period, gaining knowledge of the special time can help deepen understanding that help better support everyone involved.

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Accessing relevant teacher resources can be a handy tool to engage all students in discussions around Ramadan.

For Muslim students in Australian public schools, navigating Ramadan can raise some unique challenges – and can impact regular school routines, such as physical education classes.

You can help Muslim students feel supported throughout Ramadan

Ramadan dates

Because the dates of Ramadan change each year, schools should be aware of the correct dates each year. Doing this helps ensure the needs of Muslim students can be met by teachers and support staff.

Communicating the dates of Ramadan to the school community is also positive, as it raises awareness around the fasting period Muslim students may be adhering to.

Adjust the timetable

Adjusting the school timetable to cater for Muslim students is a supportive way schools can help students and their families during this fasting period. Shorter school days, with early pick-up times for Muslim students, as well as rescheduling exams and assessments during Ramadan, can also be considered.

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Provide a peaceful prayer space

Providing a quiet, dedicated prayer space for Muslim students during Ramadan also shows support. It can simply be a quiet, clean area of a classroom, or the school library, and should be an inviting, welcoming space.

This will help Muslim students connect to their faith during Ramadan and feel acknowledged by the broader school community.

If possible, making a permanent prayer space available for Muslim students who like to observe their daily Islamic prayers, is another way schools can support this cohort of their community.

Be flexible with PE classes

Physical education classes can be challenging for Muslim students during Ramadan, particularly if they are fasting. Schools can offer flexibility with physical education classes during Ramadan to support their Muslim students.

Schools can consider adjusting the physical education schedule or offering low-impact alternative activities for students who are fasting.

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Although fasting for very young children is not mandatory (children officially observe the fasting period of Ramadan once they reach puberty), many families support the wishes of their children to engage in the fasting period. Not having food or drink (even water) throughout the day can mean students have lower energy and concentration levels.

Encourage inclusion

Schools should promote cultural sensitivity and inclusion during Ramadan. This can be done by educating other students and staff about the importance of Ramadan and the significance of fasting for Muslim students and families.

Schools can also encourage non-Muslim students to participate in Ramadan-related activities, such as fundraising for charity or attending local community events, to promote greater understanding of different cultures and beliefs.

Eid Celebration

Traditionally, the end of Ramadan is marked by Eid celebrations. Eid is celebrated slightly differently by each different culture and families within that culture, but what is common is that it’s a time to spend time together with family, friends and loved ones.

Nurturing a respectful school culture

By taking some steps towards showing that Muslim students who do celebrate and adhere to Ramadan, schools can not only support Muslim students but also promote a culture of understanding and inclusion in Australian school communities.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live