TEACHERS at Bradford madrassas have spoken on the new measures they have introduced to try and stop the spread of COVID-19, as students and staff come to terms with the 'new normal'.

Mohammed Zubair, teacher and administrator at the Masjid Quba madrassa in Manningham, says that his team carried out a thorough risk assessment prior to its re-opening earlier this week.

This has included the use of face coverings, visors, hand sanitiser, one-way traffic systems and staggered starting times, all designed to protect students and staff from the virus.

"The health and safety of children and staff at Masjid Quba is paramount", Mr Zubair, who works for the Department of Education in his full-time job, says.

"We have all of these measures in place to protect us, and also to protect our families when we leave here and go home", he adds.

Hafeez Aziz, of the Al-Mustafa Centre in Girlington, also says that "everyone understands how serious the situation is", and that his madrassa has "received a great response from students and parents" following its re-opening last month.

A madrassa is an out-of-school setting where, typically, children and young people from the Muslim community go to study the Qur'an, religion and ethics.

Students will normally attend the madrassa after they have finished school for the day, or they will attend during the summer holidays.

Staff at the madrassa at Masjid Quba have made sure it is operating within the coronavirus guidelines, after it re-opened on Wednesday.

"We have staggered entry times, so we don't all come in and leave at the same time, and staff clean and wipe down every classroom before we leave for the day", Mr Zubair - who has been a teacher at the madrassa for 21 years - says.

"The kids sanitise their hands before they come in, and it is mandatory to wear a mask in the corridors.

"If a student needs to leave the classroom to use the toilet, they must use hand sanitiser again before they come back in.

"We have a maximum of 18 students in a class, so we're within the Government guidelines, and there's plenty of space for them to sit apart from each other.

"In July, we were teaching classes over Zoom, so if one of our students did have to self-isolate, we would revert to that."

Mr Zubair was also keen to stress how mosques have acted in the wake of their re-openings, claiming that the "positives" carried out by Bradford's Muslim community must be highlighted.

"Mosques have been taking this extremely seriously and adhering to all Government guidelines", he said.

"We have all the correct procedures in place - the negatives are often highlighted, but now these positives must be highlighted, too."

In July, staff from Masjid Quba were also trained in infection prevention and control, in conjunction with Bradford-based organisation Strengthening Faith Institutions (SFI).

"Our staff were trained through SFI and Highfield Training, so now we have staff who know what to do if a dangerous situation arises.

"SFI also helped us to carry out a full risk assessment. Its safeguarding consultant, Javed Bashir, came down and gave us advice.

"A lot of our staff also work in mainstream schools, so we have that knowledge anyway, but it was nice to learn even more.

"Not every mosque has staff who work in mainstream settings, so sometimes they need steering in the right direction, and SFI are really helpful with that."

Hafeez Aziz, of the Al-Mustafa Centre, says that his madrassa opened last month, having been shut since March.

"We used to have around 150 students at the madrassa at any one time, but that has been reduced by half since we re-opened", he explains.

"Students used to attend five days a week, but now they're split into smaller groups and only attend two days a week.

"There is a screen at the teachers' desks, and all teachers wear masks or visors, while we also have hand sanitiser for everyone on entry.

"Students leave one at a time, people bring their own prayer mats and we make sure social distancing is in place.

"When the students first came back, initially, it all felt a bit awkward, but now everything is running smoothly and we feel comfortable like this.

"We hope the situation improves soon and that we can go back to normal, but we can't take risks."

Mr Aziz has praised students, parents, staff and the local community for the way they have responded to the 'new normal'.

"We have received a great response, there have been no objections or anything like that", he says.

"Mosques and madrassas in our communities have taken a lot of precautions, to some degree more than a lot of mainstream schools and restaurants, for example, have done.

"Our community sometimes gets blamed for the high rates of infection, but I don’t see anyone here falling out of line or causing any issues.

"I think it's wrong and unfair to blame one community for the virus spreading.

"We are all working really hard to ensure safety, and we want people in other areas of society to make sure they are taking those precautions, too.

"If we let our guard down in even one area, then everyone gets affected."