My Aden College days
by Abdul Karim Ali Abdo (Class 1952-1956)
When the British Government chose Sheikh Othman to be the site for building Aden College, it automatically increased the relevance of the town and brought in an influx of British, Indian, and Arab teachers and students albeit transient, but who blended in well with the population. The town was enriched by the presence of the teachers and students who came from far away regions. It also provided some employment to the local population of Sheikh Othman.
Many students from Sheikh Othman attended the College, graduated and travelled abroad to further their studies and later became physicians, lawyers, Engineers and Educators. Perhaps, the proximity of the College to the town of Sheikh Othman and the College reputation encouraged many ‘‘Sheikhies’’ to persevere and seize the opportunity to join other fellow students from other parts of the Colony of Aden in
attending the College.
Aden College left a rich legacy as a learning institution. Left its mark on the whole of South Arabia. It was opened in 1952. We were amongst the first group of students to be transferred from Aden Secondary School in Sera, Crater. The move was orderly and organized in such a way that everything fell in place. The College was really a state-of- the- art institution. Students from Aden Protectorates, Somalia and other nationalities attended the College. Those who joined from distant regions like the Protectorates or Somalia took residence as boarders in the dormitories of the College. British, Indian and Arab teachers resided too within the compound of the College.
Although students enjoyed equal opportunities in learning, teachers housing reflected the British policies of the colonial era ! The British teachers were housed in single bungalows built within the grounds of the College. The other faculty members lived in lesser quality houses in separate parts of the College. Though, Non-British teachers received their higher education overseas and were well qualified in their teaching disciplines. But, the rapport among teachers and students was very good. In the classroom, teachers treated students equally. We never experienced any notion of arrogance or discrimination. The standard of learning was high. The competition for achievement and excellence was intense. Competition could be seen and felt in every aspects of academic teaching, learning, sports activities and leadership. The only snag in the curriculum was that we were taught more about the British and European history and geography. Less about the history and geography of our region, the Arab and Islamic world. That curriculum snag was corrected in later years and Islamic history became part of the curriculum and was taught first by teacher Saleh Zokari.
In my view, another snag was in teaching methodology. It was a one way learning. Teachers prepared their lessons and entered the classes to unload the lessons. In other words, teachers were information providers all the time and students were receivers all the time. Thus, students were captive audience in the classroom. That may be partly because of the crowded academic curriculum or the short of time in preparing for G.C.E. general certificate examinations. Though there were other activities outside the classrooms which encouraged interactions between the students. There were student meetings in the main hall in which lectures and debates were delivered and discussed by students, plays were staged and indoor sport like badminton was played. Intramural and extra-mural activities were the business of the day except in the classroom in which teaching was restricted to teachers.
Whatever were the reasons, the College graduated what I call ‘‘bookworms’’. Students were subjected to intense teaching to learn. Students were urged to read and revise the text books to pass exams! Students in most cases were learning text books by heart to pass exams. And the big reward was to travel abroad to further studies. Many of us students were dreaming of seeing the other world.
There was no space or time for the thinking process. In general, the teachers didn’t instill in us the art of discussion, research and the voicing of our own opinion. I can hardly remember that students used the College library that often!
Overall, we as students cherish the good memories of Aden College. The College prepared students for the General Certificate of Education in Ordinary and High Levels. This is equivalent to grades 12 and 13 in North America. Many graduates of Aden College proceeded abroad to further their studies. They became prominent academics in their fields. Today, they are working in many parts of the world.
I remember, a tragedy which happened to one of the students of the College. His name I believe was Hassan Al Amoodi. He was hit by another bus as he was stepping down from his own bus. He was killed instantly. He was pronounced dead in the hospital.
The British teachers used to walk to the town and enjoy an outdoor meal in some of the local cafes and restaurants. They had no inhibitions to sample local food and mix with local people.
Friday was a working day In the College. But the administration of the College allowed students to go to the mosque for Friday prayers. College teachers and students alternated in delivering the Friday sermon. At times the mosque was the scene of political arguments in the 50s. Among the teachers who used to deliver Friday sermons were Abdulla Muhereiz, Hashim Abdulla. From student were Mohamed Ali Al Bar, Qais Ghanem, Mohamed Asem, Hafid Luqman and others.
B.P. refinery was up and running in 1954. I recall a group of our classmates used to spend the Summer holiday working in Little Aden. Amongst them were Mohamed Girgrah, myself and Reza Yousef. We used to be terrified because Reda suffered from sleep walking and would get up in the middle of the night and walk in his sleep. In fact we ended up tying him to his bed to stop him from hurting himself.
On a recent visit to Aden, I visited the College site and was devastated to see such a historic educational institution deteriorating, but then I guess, since creating Aden University in
Khormaksar, the relevance of Aden College had since diminished.