An international quest to study and spread practices of inclusion


- Suzanne Ahearne

In the basement of the library, in a quiet area behind compact shelving, there’s a spot where students meet to secretly eat and talk. When Maram Alraygi discovered it, it became her favourite place to pray, providing a little spiritual break, she says in the midst of a full day of studying. And she liked sharing the hidden space with others. “I experienced the most blessed time there,” says the Master’s of Education grad.

Alraygi came to UVic (by way of Ottawa) from Jeddah to study special education, after completing an undergrad degree in early childhood studies at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, where she was first introduced to the philosophies of inclusive education.

She researched the theory and practice of special education both in Canada and in Saudi Arabia, with a desire to return to Jeddah with a greater awareness of inclusive practices.

While studying, Alraygi was able to visit local elementary schools to observe how special education is practiced in Canada. She also volunteered at the Centre for Outreach Education (CORE)—a multidisciplinary centre at UVic dedicated to enhancing the education of children and youth in the community with a range of needs. She also worked one-on-one with a child with learning disabilities to improve his reading and, using iPads and various apps, helped him with his phonological awareness.

“As educators,” she says, “in order to engage this new generation, we need to change the teaching methods that were used when we were students. We need to use different methods than the ones we experienced, especially by using technology,” she says.

“I want to make a positive change in the special education movement,” she says. “The free services for children with special needs in inclusive classrooms aren’t always sufficient for some with specific needs and some parents may need to pay to help their children.”

“I have a dream,” says Alraygi, who spoke via Skype from her home in Jeddah. “I’m looking for a job teaching in a classroom and I want to create a non-profit to provide additional supports for children with special needs whose families are not able to pay.”

“The government of Saudi Arabia has sent a huge number of students not just to Canada and the US but all over the world to bring different knowledge and experience to improve education and other fields in our country,” she says. “I want to give back to my country as they sent me to study abroad.”

Alraygi always felt welcome and respected in Canada and she is always looking for ways to remove barriers between people. “Sometimes we need to make some subtle changes in our lifestyle when moving to and living in a different culture in order to fit into the new culture without conflicting our personal values and beliefs.” 

In 2014-15, during her first year at UVic, she was general secretary in the Muslim Students’ Association. She helped organize Ramadan dinners, lectures and Islamic Awareness week, an event designed for non-Muslims to ask questions and to promote understanding and tolerance toward Islam.

“One of the reasons I wanted to be involved was to provide spiritual and social service to my fellow Muslims, and to serve them on campus,” she says. “And, I wanted to educate my non-Muslim peers that women are involved and active in the Muslim community.”


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Keywords: inclusion, education, core, outreach education, convocation, alumni, student life, international

People: Maram Alraygi

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