Mariam El-Khatib has been a part of the Atawasul family since its conception back in 2004. A weekend school started by her mother and a couple of her mother’s close friends, Atawasul School has played a big role in Mariam’s life. Both her parents volunteered for the school and all of her sisters would go on to be students in the school. For 7 years, Mariam attended weekly Saturday lessons to learn Arabic, Quran, and Islamic Studies.
After graduating from Atawasul, Mariam joined the team as a teacher aid. Since then, Mariam has transitioned to a head teacher role teaching both Quran and Islamic Studies. Most recently, she’s also taken on a role as part of the administration helping with operations.
In her 16 years with being with the school, nothing could have prepared Mariam El-Khatib for the challenges of running the school in the age of COVID-19. Much like the rest of the world, Mariam and her team were faced with the decision of what to do when the pandemic broke out. It was especially difficult 5 months later when the school year was about to start again and there was no end to the pandemic in sight.
With so much uncertainty, Mariam and her team made the decision to move everything online. The next step was to begin training all the volunteer teachers on the new tools. The following step was to prepare the families for the new system. While many families had become familiar with the online world of schooling from the first part of the pandemic, there was a new set of challenges to starting a school year completely remote.
After many hours of prep, countless practice Zoom calls, emails, WhatsApp groups, and late nights, Atawasul School kicked off its 2020-2021 school year on September 19th. While there were some hiccups along the way, the first day of online distance turned out to be incredibly successful. There was much joy in the reunion between the teachers and the families. There were many smiles plastered across screens as the beloved school proved that despite the challenges of a pandemic, the effort and dedication to connect kids to Islam prevailed. Mariam El-Khatib is a renowned community organizer based in Minnesota. She has spoken at national conferences, written for Medium, and works for LaunchGood, a crowdfunding platform geared toward Muslims.