x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Lessons in starting an education system

Problems with a group of Jordanian teachers recruited to educate the schoolboys of Abu Dhabi led to them being sent home in disgrace in the summer of 1962.

Problems with a group of Jordanian teachers recruited to educate the schoolboys of Abu Dhabi led to them being sent home in disgrace in the summer of 1962. A letter from the British Political Agency, dated Aug 4 and sent to the Political Residency in Bahrain, elaborates on the decision to dispense with their services. According to the confidential document, the decision by the then Ruler, Sheikh Shakhbut, was "a wise one, for they were, on the whole, a scruffy and unruly bunch, led by a perpetually unwashed and unshaved, sadistic and foul-minded headmaster".

The author of the letter, a British civil servant, went on to lay the blame for the poor quality of staff on the "pitiful" recruitment process, saying that the salaries offered by the Ruler were "mere pittances". He added: "It is not surprising, therefore, that he got such ruffians. They were hardly fit to educate each other let alone 'innocent' Abu Dhabi schoolboys." The author was more optimistic about the future, saying that Bill Clark, the secretary responsible for education, had impressed upon Sheikh Shakhbut, "the need for well-qualified, well-paid and comfortably accommodated teachers if any education programme is to be a success".

"Unfortunately, it has been left too late to do anything satisfactory this year, but Clark has the Ruler's approval to leave for Amman to make preliminary inquiries. "With his nine years' experience in Jordan, he has some excellent contacts and should produce better material than the two Abu Dhabi merchants found last year." The author concluded that: "The Ruler has agreed to provide satisfactory accommodation for a headmaster and six school teachers and for a plot of ground has been allocated on the detailed town plan for sites for two buildings for this purpose.

"The salaries to be offered will be in the region of Rs. 1,000 p.m. (Gulf rupees equal to UK £77) for the Headmaster and Rs. 650 p.m. (UK £50) for the teachers." - Hessa al Romaithi