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Malek Fahd: School board to step down

Former chair of the P&C Mohammed Daher Photo: Michele Mossop Parents and students at Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney’s west meet to discuss the allegations of mismanagement Photo: Michele Mossop

Concerned year 12 students attend the meeting at Malek Fahd Islamic School Photo: Michele Mossop

A Sydney school board has been forced to step down after hundreds of parents and students demanded its resignation in a heated protest on Monday night.

Malek Fahd school in Sydney’s west had $19 million in federal government funding stripped last week after a department of education investigation found it was operating for profit.

Fairfax Media has since revealed that the school’s management has failed to pay for basic services such as air-conditioning while allegedly taking out up to six-figure loans from public funding. Former school board members have denied taking out loans.

On Monday night, year 12 students arrived at the school demanding answers as they faced the threat of their school being closed mid-way through their HSC.

Hundreds of school pupils wore green ribbons as signs of solidarity while parents and students chanted for the resignation of board members.

Whole families carried signs with children as young as five crying out “betrayal,” while others called for immediate transparency.

“The school has to go through major change,” said 18-year-old Naufal Aburrahman.

After more than two hours of debate, the community unanimously passed a motion calling for the board to be sacked.

“May Allah save Malek Fahd Islamic School. Let us stand against the current board of school management to resume government funding,” the motion read.

The board is currently controlled by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

Malek Fahd is one of six schools run by AFIC under investigation over financial mismanagement. AFIC is also being investigated by the national regulator over allegations it used charity funding to purchase airfares and cover legal fees.

Despite being a private institution, the 2400-student school, one of the largest in NSW, relies on taxpayer funding for up to 75 per cent of its income.

The school’s lawyer, Rick Mitry, said AFIC  donated approximately $300,000 in funding last year to the school, while taxpayers contributed $19 million.

The former head of the school’s P&C, Mohammed Daher, said the school’s board failed to show up to the meeting, leaving already tense parents furious.

“This is what happens when someone holds all the power at all costs,” said the father-of-five.

Lawyer Rick Mitry said the school’s besieged chairman, Hafeez Kassem, who is also the president of AFIC, was in his office waiting for the tension to die down.

It was Mr Mitry who addressed the crowd in the thousand-seat hall.

“The president and the board have accepted the decision,” Mr Mitry told those still gathered after 9pm on Monday night.

Despite the board’s resignation, a statement from the Federal Department of Education said that the decision to cut funding the nation’s largest Islamic school was final.

“Changes to board membership does not affect this decision,” the statement said.

The school has until April before its funding runs out and students are forced to find alternative institutions.

Parents and staff members have begged the department to reconsider.

Mr Daher said that he understood why people felt angry about taxpayer funding not being spent on education.

“People have to be held accountable,” he said. “I want the Australian taxpayer to know where the money is going.

“But the number one priority is that thousands of students are not left without a school.”

He said he was concerned that school’s closure would spark bad publicity for Islamic education.

“Islam does not need anyone to talk about Islam anymore.  This is not just a Muslim issue, it is a national issue”.

The school community will meet again in the next week to discuss putting forward candidates for the new school board.

“Not my friend’s friend or my cousin’s cousin,” said Mr Daher.

AFIC has been contacted for comment. 

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