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“The case of a good companion and that of a bad companion is like that of one who is a perfume seller and the other a blacksmith. The perfume seller may either gift you or sell you some, or at the least you may get to smell the fragrance. As for the blacksmith, you may either get your clothes burnt or get to inhale the disgusting odour.” (Hadith)

The maktab environment effectively refers to the teaching-learning environment or to the overall climate wherein the teaching-learning activity takes place. The actual physical area which is encompassed within this scope is inclusive of the entire maktab campus… viz. the:

1. Immediate precincts outside the maktab;
2. Entrance to the maktab;
3. Maktab grounds and gardens;
4. Actual maktab plant [building];
5. Principal’s office;
6. Staffroom;
7. The many classrooms;
8. Cloakrooms for learners, staff and visitors; and
9. Caretakers’ dwelling with its grounds and gardens.

The teaching-learning environment/ climate prevailing within this broad terrain consequently determines the quality of the Culture of Teaching and Learning [COTAL] which constitutes the ethos or the climate of that maktab. The healthier the climate, the greater the assurance will be of meaningful teaching and learning.

The Challenges of Creating an Ideal Teaching and Learning Climate/ Environment
It is abundantly clear from the above that a purposeful, calculated and deliberate effort has to be made to create an ideal climate/ environment at the maktab. This climate/ environment has to be, inter alia:
1. Motivational for all the role players engaged in the teaching-learning programme;
2. Conducive to the complicated activity of teaching and learning;
3. Fertile, enriching and wholesome;
4. Of a variety that will initiate, nurture and sustain a mood of dedicated industry among all the concerned role players;
5. Constantly aiming to assure the different role players, engaged in the teaching and learning activity, that they are protected and recognised within this climate/ environment;
6. Such that it makes them all feel pleasant and happy; and
7. Of that variety that it makes them all believe that they are much needed in the community at large.

The Need for The Creation of a Conducive Climate/ Environment for Effective Teaching and Learning
It is a forgone conclusion that the climate/ environment we live in, impacts upon us in a very definite way. More than at any other time in our history, we are currently bombarded by an explosion of information, media and technology. Some of these are the:
1. Radio;
2. Films;
3. Television;
4. The internet;
5. Mobile telecommunications;
6. Newspapers;
7. Local tabloids;
8. Magazines;
9. Delectably prepared books and novels;
10. Privately run correspondence networks, clandestine or otherwise;
11. Ultra-modern billboards;
12. Colourful and suggestive pamphlets and other “flyers”; and
13. Street-to-street or door-to-door public announcements and visits.

This continuous bombardment provides an unceasing flow of information [stimuli] … this then naturally gives rise to resultant or reactionary responses. Some of these stimuli are indeed very healthy, clean and necessary for our intellectual growth and development. However, a greater volume of these is pure diatribe. They are either fiction, fantasy, funky absurdities or weird and unreal imaginations and hallucinations.

Knowingly or unknowingly, wittingly or unwittingly, one is mesmerised by this endless explosion of information. The net impact of this ongoing bombardment could be simply summarised as follows:
• Firstly, such bombardments impact on the climate/ environment we live in.
• Secondly, they radically influence our teaching and learning climate/ environment.
• Thirdly, as an obvious consequence, they go on to shape the thinking, speech and action of the role players engaged in the educational process.

The great tragedy is that this endless and perpetual assault on one’s psyche has become so enormous and overwhelming that our younger Muallim/ahs, as well as their learners are literally “born” or forced into this new world order.

Hence, the urgent and serious need to counter this by the creation of a healthy and conducive climate/ environment in our maktabs. It is only when we succeed in achieving this, can we aspire for effective, meaningful and character-building teaching and learning to take place.

In addition to the many and diverse teaching and learning resources available to us today, the Muallim/ah himself/herself remains pivotal to the creation of this ideal climate/ environment for meaningful, purposeful and effective teaching and learning. It is indeed the Muallim/ah and his/her religious fervour [“deendaariness”], coupled with his/her impeccable role model which jointly play a vital role in the creation of the ideal teaching and learning climate/ environment.

The selective and carefully planned use of the available technology can greatly contribute towards the creation of a rich and ideal teaching and learning climate/ environment. Additionally, much more meaningful information and knowledge can be imparted and highlighted via the selection and use of the appropriate teaching resource/s. In order to enjoy this great blessing from Allah [Subhanahu wa Ta’ala], it is imperative that Muallim/ahs make a genuine and sincere effort to :

1. Familiarise themselves with the different types of teaching and learning resources accessible to them; as well as
2. Understand the special needs of their different learners.

Only then can it be reasonably concluded that their selection of the appropriate teaching resource/s, in order to create the desired teaching and learning climate/ environment, will be a positive response to the “needs” and “problems” of their learners. In such a climate, the learners’ responses do not only become spontaneous and spirited but it also becomes more exciting, meaningful and therapeutic. Additionally, the climate needs to be such, that besides the mundane verbal and written responses [consolidation exercises], the learners could also be motivated to ACT-OUT [role-play] the newly acquired learning material.

Some Factors to Consider When Creating a Healthy and Conducive Teaching and Learning Climate/ Environment
The desired teaching and learning climate/ environment in a maktab is NOT an automatic issue. To the contrary, it is a carefully planned and purposeful programme. All the role players engaged in the educational programme have to painstakingly create and establish this conducive climate.

The following is a summary of the numerous factors that need to be taken into consideration when creating the ideal teaching and learning climate/ environment:

1. The Muallim/ah has to know and understand the background, needs and the individual character and nature of his/her learners.
2. The climate/ environment that he/she then creates, should preferably be a purposeful response to these special needs of his/her learners.
3. The climate should also be such that it motivates the learners to co-operate with their Muallim/ahs in a positive, constructive and meaningful manner.
4. The resources that the Muallim/ah uses to create this ideal climate has to be carefully and purposefully selected.
5. The climate/ environment in the classroom should be as close as possible to the real climate that exists outside: Only then will the learners be somewhat prepared to understand and handle the real world, which they are being eventually prepared for.
6. The ideal teaching and learning climate/ environment should, at all times, encourage and sustain an open, healthy and dignified “two-way” communication. The channels of communication between the Muallim/ah and learners should never be closed. Such a situation could be catastrophic and nullify the entire teaching and learning process.
7. It has to be understood that each learner is unique … their levels of intelligence, field of experience and their unique pattern and standard of everyday living at their homes, are never the same.
8. The ideal teaching and learning climate/ environment can only be classified as vibrant and productive if it deliberately invites and sustains active participation and inter-action from the learners. In any maktab situation, passivity is a recipe for disaster.
9. Besides the selected teaching resource/s assisting in the creation of an ideal teaching and learning climate/ environment, the Muallim/ahs’ level of language and an appropriate tone, tenor and intonation are also extremely important.
10. Since no two Muallim/ahs are the same, their perceptions of an ideal teaching and learning climate/ environment might also differ. However, each Muallim/ah’s teaching methodology and style of lesson presentation has to be compatible to and appropriate for:
• his/her group of learners; and
• the teaching and learning climate/ environment that he/she creates in the classroom