London's Rustam Iranian school
By Rustam School Student Fariba M.
April 13, 2000
Imagine being told that you have to go to school on a lazy Saturday
morning! The sheer drudgery! Well ,that is where things are different at
Rustam. The students and teachers work together to create a perfect, friendly
environment for work. It is unthinkable for them to be somewhere else that
day of the week! It is quite common to spend the whole week planning and
thinking about what is going to happen next Saturday.
"We all like going to Rustam, because of its warm community,"
says a student.
Rustam is inherently a place where children can bond with their teachers.
It is a place where they can find friends in strangers. Children learn
to read write, and understand the sweet language of Farsi in a calm, happy
Rustam cannot just be called a school, it seems to have created its
own Little Tehran. The school itself was established 18 years ago, with
no more than 20 students in a small rented apartment. I asked some previous
students who attended Rustam about their views and their memories about
"I remember how small the school was. I still remember the break
times since I could play with all the children," says Shiva who is
now 20 years old. Ali an enthusiastic student who is now 22 says, "They
had a sweet machine, but I never had change." And Marjan who is now
26 says: "I attended this school fourteen years ago. I now see big
changes have taken place and I am proud to see children who have never
seen their country speak Farsi fluently."
Rustam was the first Iranian school set up in England. Now it has approximately
150 students, a building that is rented on Saturdays. It has a library,
a theater, a gym, a computer lab and around sixty classrooms of which twenty
are used today.
The teachers are all dedicated, well educated and have a love for all
things Persian. This makes them ideally suited to both teaching Persian
and to perpetuating the beautiful culture. They are so friendly that the
children feel free to seek them for help. They have the ability to seem
like friends rather than teachers, but at the same time, they have the
skill to create a classroom environment conducive to learning.
The brains behind the operation, as it were, is a Mrs. White (aka Mrs.
Taheri). It was because of her concern along with those of some fellow
Iranians living in London, that Rustam was started in the first place!
The parents and the Iranian community who live in London were worried about
their children forgetting their mother tongue, their heritage and culture.
Now, thanks to these people, the children are being taught the importance
of cherishing their homeland, Iran. Mrs.White a well-known women in English
society, is a hardworking, caring women, whom everyone respects. She works
hard to bring Iranians together. I can say that she is a very good role
model for us Iranians.
There is a school assembly where parents, students, children and other
members of the school are invited to attend every two weeks. The assembly
starts with a warm welcome from the headmistress Mrs White. This is followed
by selected classes performing skits or a show in front of the whole school.
Students and teachers then make general announcements and the assembly
ends by every one singing the respectful anthem "Ay Iran".
I always see the teachers speaking to the children and reminding them
of the importance of their Iranian background, and what it is that they
should endeavor to treasure, appreciate and hold so dear. They are taught
how to be concerned for each other, and to put away with such things as
greed, envy and jealousy.
If a student does well, the other students commend him or her. If a
student does badly, all the other children try to help, by showing the
knowledge that they possess, instead of teasing and taunting.
The students are made to feel at home. The fact that they are with other
students of the same background makes them feel more accepted and cared
for. Since no matter how long they have lived in a different country, the
way that they have been raised is different from their English friends.
Therefore, they cannot completely be understood by those English school
In Rustam they can discuss the problems of having to cope with having
two different cultures -- taught to them at home by their parents, and
at school by their English teachers and friends. They are shown that they
are not alone, that the blood that runs in their veins is the same that
of their Iranian teachers and classmates. This imbues a sense of honor
and respect for them.
Students learn Farsi by being immersed in an Iranian environment and
culture for a whole day. This allows and encourages children who have no
Persian skills to quickly pick up the basics and soon forget that they
were uncomfortable with the language.
Rustam is a school where the students can visit their friends and study
in a vivacious environment; it is a place that does not discriminate. Everyone
is accepted and treated as an equal. Students improve on their own qualities,
and competition is not needed. The school is for all people and all ages.
Everyone has fun and learns at the same time. It almost seems as though
everyone there make up one big family.
Rustam is well known in London because of the warm community. It is
as though the school is a small Iran. When you go inside the building,
you can even forget for one day out of the week that you are in exile.
The students, teachers and parents feel as though they are back home!