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."