ORT Mishpahteinu, the only Jewish school in the Republic of Tatarstan, is set for a 40 per cent growth in enrolment thanks to the completion of an additional building. The Republic’s President, Rustam Minnikhanov, toured the new three-storey, 3,000 square metre block following its official opening ceremony this week; situated next door to the existing 76-year-old building in the capital, Kazan, it will accept three entry classes a year taking the number of six- to 17-year-olds at the school from 569 to 800 by 2015.
It is a huge boost not only for the city’s 10,000 Jews but for the whole education sector: since it was opened in 1998, the school has become a model institution and the expertise of ORT and the school’s teachers are highly sought after. And the school’s consistently excellent academic performance means that many families from the Muslim majority and other communities apply for their children to attend; last year there were six applicants for every place.
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said: “The school has become immensely popular, renowned as it is as one of the most prestigious in the city. This is thanks in large part to its joining the ORT educational network. ORT has brought to the school state-of-the-art equipment, and introduced new educational technology and pedagogical techniques as well as provided opportunities for the continuous professional development of teachers.”?
Although it took only nine months to build, the new block is the result of a process which started two years ago with the warm support of the Republic’s authorities. The school has enjoyed the support of many international donors over the past 14 years, including World ORT President Emeritus Sir Maurice Hatter, British ORT, Arthur Silber, Henry Davis, and the Dorset Foundation. But the chief backer of the new building has been the President of the Tatarstan Jewish Community, Mikhail Skoblionik, who is already looking forward to the next stage in developing the campus.
“I’m very happy that the new building has been completed,”? Mr Skoblionik said. “I’m convinced that investing in education is the best way we can provide for the future of the Jewish community. Now we can prepare for the building of a sports hall and another building which will connect the new and the old blocks, increasing the school’s capacity even further.”?
ORT Mishpahteinu’s students learn the State Education Curriculum as well as Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Thanks to ORT’s input, the school offers a unique educational programme including ICT-related courses, project-based learning and integration of school disciplines; it has also enabled the training of all the schools teachers in the use of computers as educational tools and introduced distance learning courses provided by the Moscow ORT Technology College. World ORT is investing $100,000 in fitting out the new block’s science laboratories and computer classes.
Some of the technology was on display during President Minnikhanov’s tour: a Hebrew lesson conducted via an Internet connection with teachers in Israel. Accompanying the President were Education and Science Minister Albert Gilmutdinov, Construction Minister Irek Faizullin, and Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin.
ORT Mishpahteinu Principal Olga Troupp told the guests: “The popularity of the school meant it had become very crowded: last year we had to conduct some classes in the hall and the library. The new building provides us not only with extra classrooms but also a dance hall and gym.”?
Representing World ORT at the opening ceremony were former Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Education Professor Sidney Strauss and World ORT Representative in the CIS and Baltic States David Benish.
“It was moving to see the excitement of the children and parents,”? said Professor Strauss. “The value of what ORT is doing there is incalculable: after decades of Judaism being suppressed, the school is now the only way that these children can learn about their religion, their tradition, their culture; they are being given a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves, which is their Jewish roots. I feel privileged to have been a part of it.”?
Mr Benish paid tribute to the on-going support provided by Tatarstan and Kazan authorities.
“I am very happy to have such partners who have proved themselves to be real friends of the Jewish community, World ORT and of Jewish education,”? he said.