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The Sultanate of Oman’s First Government School: Al Saidiya

Atheer – Oman History

Oman’s first government school, the Al Saidiya School, was opened in Salalah in 1936. When first opened, the school taught subjects such as Quranic studies, Islamic jurisprudence and monotheistic studies, alongside other basic subjects like Arabic, English, history and geography. Initially there were only four grades, which were basic kindergarten followed by standards one, two and three respectively. During these early years the school was run by a Salalah native named Hafeedh Salim Al Ghassani, with the majority of the teaching staff also hailing from Dhofar.

Al Saidiya School, Salalah

A second Al Saidiya School branch was then opened in Muscat in the year 1940, by His Majesty Said bin Taimur Al Said, the father of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. The school, which was located in what is now Old Muscat, was initially an all-boys school.

A Palestinian by the name of Ismail Khaleel Al Rasasi was appointed director of the Al Saidiya school, having previously served as head of the Sultaniya School. Together with principal and fellow Palestinian Abdul Hay Al Khateeb, Al Rasasi assisted the school’s four Omani teachers. In addition they brought Arabic grammar, science, geography and history books across from Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon.

Al Khateeb’s reign came to an end in 1954, with a string of different principals from the Levant taking the position following his departure.

Sultan Qaboos took to the throne in 1970, appointing his uncle Sayyid Abbas bin Faisal as Inspector of Knowledge, a position that later became known as Minister of Education.

As far as education was concerned, the Al Saidiya school helped transform Oman’s education, to the extent that large batches of students were offered scholarships abroad, in countries such as Iraq, Egypt and Yemen. Students at the school were taught a variety of sports in addition to boy scouting, something that it retains to this day.

Students sent to Iraq for scholarship, 1936

In the year 2000, on the order of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, the Al Saidiya School was moved to a brand new building, directly adjacent to the original school, which was turned into a museum. The museum, run by curator Mrs. Hafidhah Al Siyabi, explores the school’s origins, as well as looks at the development of education in Oman and preserves a number of artefacts and photographs from the original Al Saidiya school.

The third branch of the Al Saidiya school was opened in 1959 at Bait Al Mandhary, before being moved to the Muscat Corniche in 1960.

The Sultanate of Oman’s very first National Day celebration was held at the Al Saidiya School in Muscat in 1971.

First National Day celebration, Al Saidiya School Muscat

 

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

Images taken from Happy Platinum Jubilee to the Al Saidiya

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