Early History of Aden College by Dr.Abdulla Al Sayyari
I have recently obtained documents from The National Archives (UK) (Kew Richmond) which contain the following interesting facts from a document entitled Commonwealth Survey Number 116 dated 20, February 1953. I add my own comments to this historical document in bold lettering.
1.Additional confirmation that the Official opening of the College was on 12th of January 1953. However this current document refers to the College having been opened by Aden Governor Tom Hickinbotham as opposed to the previous document which mentioned Sir Cox. In any case both were almost certainly present at the ceremony which was held at the College Assembly Hall. This is also attested to independently by the valuable picture sent to us by Dr. Shihab Ghanem. This important photo is in the website and it shows that the ceremony was also attended by the late Dr. Mohamed Abdo Ghanem who was on the podium. Present were also Lutfi Jaffar Aman, Ibrahim Robleh and Danny Fawcus (see photo).
2.The College was part of a 5 year education plan by Aden’s Government and its initial cost was 150,000 Sterling Pounds.
3.The document reveals that from the onset there was a clear intention to:
a. Have O and A level education in Arts and Science and to eligible students to have scholarships overseas.
b. Entry is by examination and the government was to provide 18 bursaries.
c. Serve Aden, the Protectorates and surrounding areas including Somaliland.
4.The document states that “it is hoped that in time the College may grow into a higher College and finally acquire a University College status”
a. I suggest that these thoughts expressed right at the outset of the College establishment are in keeping with what I mentioned in my series of articles entitled/ Aden College Phenomenon “that the intention of establishing the college was not to produce clerks for the Colony.
5.The College did start in mid 1952 teaching students and some of the teachers were drawn from Secondary school staff.
6.The College has a teachers training program section. This lasted for one
year, The document states that this course is planned to increase to two years and initially English will be medium of learning but it is planned that Arabic shall follow as the teaching medium for teachers at a later stage. (I did not know that Aden College had a teachers’ training section.
Did anyone else know?).
7.The excerpt from the London Times (see news item) which confirms the opening by Tom Hickinbotham. It also quotes Mr. Christopher Cox as saying that he hopes that “the College will develop into a full University”. By the way Mr. Christopher Cox was the Educational Adviser to the Secretary for Colonies at the time.
8.In his speech (of which I have an extract) at the opening ceremony Mr. Christopher Cox states his hope that the College will eventually develop into a University and he draws a comparison to Gordon’s College in Khartoum becoming Khartoum university.
On the other hand, there were documents which I obtained represented what appears to be minutes of a working party and/or exchange of letters on the establishment of Aden College I find:
1.A comment by Sir Bernard Reilly (dated 28/4/49) saying that these efforts took a long time but are taking shape and he adds that the cost was 140,000 pounds, 40,000 more than originally planned. He however adds, this is not a problem as the Colony has the funds.
2.In the same minutes, Sir Bernard Reilly stated that the College site is excellent but is “closer to Sheikh Othman as was wished for”. He said such proximity is necessitated by the need for water supply for the College from the adjacent “Public Gardens” (I assume he is referring to Bustan Al Kamisri). He adds that another drawback of the site had to do with the sandstorms Sheikh Othman is prone to get in the Summer. To avoid this, trees will be planted. Having said all this he felt that the chosen site is the best site available in ‘‘the small limits of the Aden Colony”.
3.The above minutes were sent by Sir Bernard Reilly (who appears the project manager of building Aden College) to a Mr. Robson (who appears to be his superior ? In the Secretary of State for Colonies Office) who immediately (on the same day) gives his approval for the plans and approves the extra budget.
4.There is a telegram from Secretary of State for Colonies to the Governor of Aden dated 28/4/49 approving the projects and sending its plans, including staff accommodation (not available to me). He points out that there was “ no provision made yet for garden plots where the College’s horticultural and agricultural practical work will be carried out although ample space for this side of the Colleges activities (42 out of 73 acres in all) has been provided. He adds that he hopes to see the College open on 1st January 1951. Where such gardens ever developed? . Can anyone answer this question? Because I cannot remember specific gardens for practical studies. Now at least we know that 73 acres where allotted to the College.
5.On 10/9/49, Sir Bernard Reilly (who, I can surmise from the correspondence, has his heart fully behind the Aden College Project) writes (apparently in frustration) a letter to another superior (a Mr.
Lambert) mentioning that Mr. Kingston-Snell, the then Director of Education in Aden, has informed him that the site for the building has been changed yet again (his words) due to RAF objections (he does not delve on what grounds) and he requests ’ that Mr. Lambert seeks a clarification from the Governor of Aden. Sir Bernard Reilly, I have discovered, was Resident at Aden (1931-1937) and Governor (1937-1940). Most of his professional life was devoted to Aden Affairs and he actually wrote a book in 1965 on Aden and its history. His first post in Aden was as a Magistrate in Sheikh Othman.
6.Obviously a telegram was sent to the Governor of Aden who responds by a telegram to The Secretary of State for the Colonies on 28/9/1949 saying that all plans to build the College are ready and awaiting the return of the architect form leave and that he expects the tender to be called in March 1950. He added that the RAF objected to the original site “on the score of its proximity to Sheikh Othman aerodrome” (where is/was this aerodrome?). But he adds that a satisfactory site has been chosen “ near the colony boundary to the north of Sheikh Othman”
7.Two other facts of Interest:
a.The Early plan was to call it Lord Lloyd College
b.The time the decision was made to establish Aden College, the British Labour Party was in Government.