Increasing Number of French Muslim Girls Attend Private Schools

This article profiles Reussite, one of the first Muslim private schools in France. Several associations and activities are grouped under the umbrella of Reussite, which means “success.” The school first opened in 2001 in the densely populated suburb of Aubervilliers, northeast of Paris. Initially the school had a handful of middle school students, but today 138 pupils in junior and senior high school study there. Many girls come specifically because of problems they’ve had in public schools related to the veil ban, said Belkhier Okachi, the school’s treasurer.

The school has become a victim of its own success and regularly turns away students in order to keep class sizes small — the average is 24 — so students can benefit from individual attention from teachers.

Recognized by the state, the school follows the same national curriculum as its public school counterparts with some notable differences. Students are required to take Arabic language classes as well as one hour of religion per week. Although the midday prayer is not a requirement, most students participate in the 15-minute exercise.

The school’s enrollment is almost equally split between girls and boys, although it enrolls slightly more girls because they have a harder time in public schools. For funding, Reussite relies largely on the 2,500 euro annual tuition per student as well as donations from local businesses and private sources. Nevertheless, the school is facing grave financial difficulties.