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When was Oman’s First English Speaking School Opened?

Atheer – History

The first English speaking school established in Oman was opened in the year 1896 at the request of the ruler of the time, Sayyid Faisal Turki. Sayyid Faisal invited a number of American Christians from the Reformed Church to help set up the school, which was in large due to their reputation for having opened numerous successful schools throughout the region. The Reformed Church schools were deemed to be of such high standard that members of the royal families would often send their children.

In 1896 a group of young boys from Africa were freed as slaves and went into the care of the American Mission in what is now old Muscat. The mission served as a school, providing the boys with an English language education, with the American Christians from the Reformed Church serving as teachers. The school remained in Oman for a total of 91 years, before eventually closing in 1987.

The school’s founder and original principal was Peter Zwemer and the school was later renamed the Peter Zwemer Memorial School following his untimely death in 1898. The student body was comprised largely of freed African slaves from Zanzibar, a number of the Sultan’s family members, and the children of employees of the Sultan’s Royal Court.

In 1932, under the management of Minnie Dykstra, the school became co-educational, with Omani girls being admitted for the first time. Between 1953 and 1981 a couple called Jay and Midge Kapenga served as the school’s co-principals and it was during this time that the school was renamed the Al Amana School.

The Al Amana school was closed in 1987, as by this time the Sultanate of Oman had a strong public education system, with a number of schools across the country and it was hence felt that there was no need for a private school. Following its closure the school was converted into a centre, known as the Al Amana Centre. To this day it is used to teach Christian leaders and pastors about Islam as well as to help strengthen Muslim – Christian relations.

Upon reflecting on her years in Oman, former principle of the school, Midge Kapenga spoke highly of the Omanis alongside whom the American Christians lived. Kapenga  referred to them as “quiet, dignified, exceedingly polite, strict to morals and independent.”

Reference: Happy Platinum Jubilee to the Al Saidiya, Muntasir Shaaban Al Farsy

Image taken from Internet (Google)

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