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Doing it for the kids

Last update - Thursday, November 5, 2009, 09:31 By Metro Éireann

Sheikh Shaheed Satardien of Ideal Business College tells Metro Éireann why he’s dedicated to providing a good education

IMMIGRANT dropouts from Ireland’s tertiary education system (particularly language schools) are a growing problem, according to Sheikh Shaheed Satardien, whose Ideal Business College on Dublin’s Westmoreland Street – co-founded with Dr Josephine O’Brien – sets a somewhat altruistic agenda.
Indeed, Satardien appears more concerned with promoting good education rather than extracting the big bucks, although the two are somewhat interdependent.
“There are enough dropouts in this country, and enough within the refugee community... not all foreigners are educated, believe me,” warns Satardien, who could just well be doing it for the kids.
“I’m not a saint,” he clarifies, “but a businessman and educationalist.”
The South African, who holds postgraduate qualifications in Islamic studies and education, ran a college of Islamic studies in Cape Town – producing, as he recalls, 176 imams within a nine-year period.
And he’s decided to reignite this educational zeal in Ireland, initially providing certificate and diploma level business courses (delivered, he points out, by contracted, qualified tutors). He hopes to branch out into shorter courses in areas such as interpersonal and intercultural studies.
Of Yemeni and Indian heritage – with strong Irish links too – Satardien has led a somewhat colourful life since emigrating to Ireland, and is probably best known for his warnings over the possibility of extremism surfacing among the country’s Muslim youth (as featured in an episode of RTÉ’s Would You Believe?).
The father-of-17 – with two wives – sometimes appears to break off more than he can chew, and certainly has his hands full at the Ideal Business College, which opened in February.
The school currently caters for 140 students, according to Satardien, and those intending to misuse student visas in order to work full-time (and ignore their studies) are not tolerated.
It is currently affiliated with the UK-based Association of Business Executives, and is in the process of preparing to submit an application for Fetac (Further Education and Training Awards Council) registration, a system that impresses Satardien.
The sheikh adds that he provides “the cheapest business course in Dublin”, at €1,200 per year – a negotiable rate – but laments the State’s approach to overseas students.
“The revenue that foreign students bring into Ireland is massive,” he points out. “Unfortunately the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Justice have made stricter rules, and a lot of students became scared and went home.”
Nevertheless, Satardien hopes to enhance the college to the point where it can offer the highest level of postgraduate courses.
“We’re building a good reputation as an academic institution,” he says. “We’re serious, there’s no hanky panky.” Satardien underlines that he’s required to sign, and abide by, a quality assurance agreement with the Department of Education.
All in all, Satardien seems to be enjoying the venture, even though he finds it hard to switch off.
“Your mind can never get too far from work,” he admits.

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