Aden crown flag

Dhow symbol which was incorporated into the Union Jack
to form Aden Colony flag.

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Dr. A. Al Sayyari
(Saudi Arabia)

Dr. Shihab Ghanem

Ashraf Girgrah, B.A. B.Ed

Design :
Ashraf Girgrah


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Last update September 2021  التحديث الاخير في
Contact address: عنوان الاتصال

الدكتور عبدالله السياري

أسرة التحرير
الدكتور شهاب غانم
(ألامارات المتحدة)
أشرف جرجره
ب.ع. آداب، ب.ع. تدريس

أشرف جرجره

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The phenomenon of Aden College, Part I
By Dr. Abdulla Ahmed Al Sayyari

It is indeed remarkable that Aden College had not graduated except 11 waves of student groups. The total number does not exceed 990 students. It’s really impressive that many of the graduates had remarkable achievements and excelled in many disciplines and in various fields of science, medicine, literature, Arts, Journalism, Politics and Diplomatic Service.

Being one of its graduates I will write a study about the College in four parts. 

I hope that what I write will be of interest to those in Aden like Asmahan Aklan Ali Al
Alaas, professor at the Department of History in the University of Aden, who has academic research on the subject and its ramifications.

My hope is that it is important to discuss among ourselves the lessons that can be learnt from studying what I call "the phenomenon of the Aden College" in terms of thinking about educational strategies for the future.

The article is in four parts and will consist of:

1. The construction process of Aden College. In that I’ll rely on information from the "British National Manuscripts" of the United Kingdom in Kew Garden, London.

2. The Speculations about the reasons why the British authorities were considering the establishment of the College.

3. Presenting and discussing the educational strategies adopted for the College.

4. Providing examples of the College graduates and their achievements in several fields.

1. The construction process of Aden College.

I've received information and pictures about this era from the "British National manuscripts" of the UK.  It must be noted that I also received permission to reproduce the images on a limited scale. However, the British National Archives remains the owner of intellectual property rights to these images.

The College was officially opened by Sir Christopher Cox (Education Advisor to the Minister of State for the Colonies) in the presence of the Governor General (Wali of Aden) at the time, Sir Tom Hickenbotham on January 12th, 1953 (see picture 1).
I received the picture from Dr. Isam Mohamed Abdo Ghanem, a graduate of Aden College and a prominent lawyer. Present In the picture were a number of academics who at attended the official opening  and who had an extensive background  in the arts and education. (Mohamed Abdo Ghanem was in the front row on the right and Lutfi Jafar Aman, Abrahim Robleh and Tony Fawcus were in the back
In picture 2 we can read the news of the opening of the College. It was published by
The London Times on January 13th, 1953.

The students started classes in the College in 1952 well before the official opening as seen in the dedication to Sir Christopher Cox (Picture No. 3).

The manuscripts revealed various correspondence taking place between several parties namely, the Manager of the project (who seems to be named Sir Bernard Reilly), the Office of the Minister of Colonies in
London, and between London and the Office of the Governor General (Wali) of Aden.

The project of establishing the College was the product of a 5 year educational plan.
I found out from the archives that, from time to time, (due largely to the increase in the costs of construction)  there was a period of slack in implementing the idea of ​​setting up the College. From my point of view, the person who maintained the pressure to move ahead with the project, was Sir Bernard Riley. He really deserved the credit in pushing for the completion of the ongoing construction. Sir Bernard Reilly made the following comments on 28/4//1949:
These efforts took a long time but became to take shape, and added that the cost was
140,000 and this amount increased by 40,000 of what was originally planned."

I have also discovered from other sources that Sir Bernard Reilly, was a resident officer in Aden (1931-1937) and later the Governor General of Aden (1937 – 1940). He devoted most of his career to Aden and in fact wrote a book about Aden and its history in 1965. He started his career in Shiekh Othman, Aden as a Judge.

In the deliberations, the location of the College was discussed. The selection to build the College seemed to be chosen, at the start, to the south along Sheikh Othman.
Sir Bernard Reilly in one of the interventions mentioned that the College was excellent but was "Closest to the Sheikh Othman, more than what I was hoping." He said that the facility dictated the need to provide water from "parks" nearby (and I suppose he was referring to the (Al Bustan Alkemsri). He adds,
"There is another drawback of the site, which is that Sheikh Othman was prone to dust storms in the Summer. To avoid this I recommend to heavily plant trees around the vicinity of the College".
After all this, he expressed his feelings that the site chosen, in the final outcome, was the best site available
"close to the border of the small colony of Aden."

Pictures 4a and 4b show the front entrance view of Aden College. It was fully planted with trees to protect the College from sand storms during the Summer. In 10/9/1949, Sir Bernard Reilly (apparently in a rage of frustration) wrote to Mr. Lambert (who seemed to be his boss) stating that Mr. Kingston Snell, (who was then the Director of Education in Aden) reported that the location of the College was changed again. The reason was because of the objections by the British Royal Air Force (but he gave no reason) and asked Mr. Lambert to seek clarification from the office of the Governor General (Wali of Aden).

It is clear that a telegram was already sent to the Governor of Aden, who responded by sending a telegram to the Minister of State for the Colonies on 28/9/1949, saying that all plans to build the College were ready and waiting for the return of the architect of the Colony of Aden from his vacation.  He expected that the tender to start construction was in March 1950. He added that the British Royal Air Force objected to the original site "due to its proximity to the airport, in Sheikh Othman".

But he added that the site selection was a suitable location "near the border of the Colony of Aden to the north of Sheikh Othman"   There was another telegram from the Minister of State for the Colonies to the Governor General of Aden on 28/4/1949 approving the project and mailing the plans. He referred in his message to the total area of the College and its Annexes as 73 acres, and a garden area of ​​42 acres (which would also be used to teach students botany and agriculture, perhaps) and added that he hoped to see the opening of the College on January 1st, 1951.

The manuscripts also revealed from the very beginning the clear following intentions:

1. To launch courses for the general and advance levels in Arts and Sciences, to allow outstanding students the opportunity to study abroad.
2. The admission to the College was to be through competitive entrance test.
3. That one of the aims in establishing the College was to serve the Colony of Aden and the protectorates and the surrounding areas.
4. That there were plans to establish a
training program for teachers in a department in the College.
5. That there was hope that the College might be the nucleus of a university college in the future.

I've got pictures of the college in its various stages of construction (Pictures 5, 6 and 7).

The plans included the building of classrooms, science laboratories (Picture 8), a library, a public hall for meetings, a cafeteria and accommodation for students from outside Aden (Picture 9), a mosque (Picture 10), multiple variety of sport playgrounds and a theater.

It is really interesting that in the opening speech of Sir Christopher Cox (which I got a copy from the British National manuscripts) he pointed out that he saw in Aden College, the nucleus for a university in the future and drew a comparison with the Gordon College in Khartoum, which developed to become the University of Khartoum and expressed the hope that Aden College would contribute to raise the standard of knowledge in the Colony as a whole.

In page 210 of the book "The society, economy and culture in contemporary Yemen," B. R. Pridham from the University of Exeter, Center for the Persian Gulf Studies wrote
" Aden College was opened in 1950. It was founded on basis of the British school system. It accepted a few students each year, provided an overall best teachers, modern equipment and laboratories, and dominated the cultural and education stages in the fifties and sixties. It should be noted that most intellectuals, ministers and officials before and after independence had received their education at Aden College. It is unforeseeable to study the development of education in Aden and the protectorates without reference to the impact of the College "(end of quote).

The late teacher and Principal Abdul Rahim Luqman who spent fifty years of his career  educating generations of students wrote about Aden College:
 "Aden College was opened  ten years ago as the first academic high school with classes of modern laboratories and equipment, highly proficient teachers and most important, its own spirit to aspire for the new. The College occupied large areas of land that serve as a connecting link between Aden and the Protectorates. The College evolved over the years, prospered and became the Faculty for the dissemination of knowledge and science, culture and high ideals between the ranks of today's students who are citizens of the future. In this College, in the classes of students and playgrounds the young and leaders of the future are trained in the southern tip of Arabia....and those students who usually pass the qualifying exam in the advance level of education will be able to study abroad in British and Middle Eastern universities to become doctors, scientists, engineers, administrators, lawyers and teachers .... "


Picture 1.

London Times-14_01_1953

Picture 2. An excerpt from the London Times.

TNA- Presentation1

Picture 3.

Front view of Aden College

Pictures 4a and 4b. show planted trees around the front view of the college.

Bir Fadhl, Aden College and Sheikh Othman

Location of Bir Fadhl military airport designed by Dr. Adel Aulaqi an AC alumnus.

TNA-Main Entrance Under Construction1

Picture 5. The front view during construction

TNA-Aden College

Picture 6. The front view of the entrance


Picture 7. The mosque during construction

TNA-Science labs

Picture 8. Sciences Laboratory building.


Picture 9. Dormitory for students


Picture 10. The mosque after completion.

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