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AUB Chairman Hamad Al-Humaidhi
AUB Chairman Hamad Al-Humaidhi

Ahli United Bank reports a profit of $154.6 million

By Khaled Al-Abdulhadi

KUWAIT: A lecture on the role of Arab nationalism in the modern education of Kuwait from 1911-1961 was held by Dr Talal Al-Rashoud, Assistant Professor of Modern Arab History at Kuwait University. The event was sponsored by Dr Saleh Al-Nafisi, Assistant Professor of Politics at Gulf University for Science and Technology, and hosted by Dr Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, Associate Professor of Philosophy at GUST.

The presentation demonstrated that although Arab nationalism is not given a prominent role in Gulf history, it was actually central to the emergence of a modern political entity in Kuwait in the 20th century. The process began in the 1910s and 1920s when Kuwaiti merchants and reformist ulema established the first modern school inspired by the Nahda, the Arab Awakening or enlightenment that flourished in the period before. Before then, the Arabian Gulf had been isolated due to British presence.

Al-Mubarkiya School was established by a number of merchants, including the Al-Ibrahim family, Al-Khaled family, Shamlan Bin Ali, Hilal Fajhan Al-Mutairi and Yousef Bin Eisa Al-Qenaei, along with other families in Kuwait. They later established Al Ahmadiyya in 1921, headed by Yousef Bin Eisa Al-Qenaei. At this time, the schools were different from traditional schools, including modern systems of teaching. By the 1930s, merchant-sponsored schools went down due to repression and neighbor blockades.

Students leaving Mubarkiya School
Students leaving Mubarkiya School

The merchants then formed the Red Book Group, which took up Arab nationalism, sometimes taking arms into Palestine and supporting their cause. In the late 1930s, after the dissolution of the council, Muhammad Amin Al-Husseini first visited Kuwait in 1924 and became a prominent contributor to education, bringing in further Palestinian teachers who expanded schools into modern institutions. Those who studied in Iraq applied the curriculum to Kuwaiti schools, bringing back Arab nationalist sentiment and transforming the education system into an up-down relationship.

On the other hand, the Egyptian curriculum was modernized, which was preferable to the British compared to the Iraqi nationalists of Iraq. Egyptian control strengthened nonetheless, extending the system. The Egyptian curriculum ran counter to Arab nationalism. However, the nationalist movement strengthened through the support of merchants.

In 1945, Egypt established a house for Kuwaiti students, allowing more Kuwaitis to take pan-Arab travels, and many of them became involved in protests. The Kuwaiti effendis who returned from Egypt during the 1950s established clubs and groups, turning the dominant ideology among the Muthaqfoon (the Civilized). Abdulaziz Al-Hussein, the first graduate of Egyptian schools, replaced him. He was the first to introduce suits to the public while still wearing his ghutra. Hussein promoted a successful national curriculum, growing into the modern educational system. After the Suez crisis, the nationalist movement grew even bigger.

The modern independent State of Kuwait provided a decentralized education system. The Muthaqfoon had the ability and mobility to stand up to the sheikhs, as Nasserist rhetoric dominated the curriculum in Kuwait, making English and Arabic schools provide more nationalist Arab sentiment. Education had been free since 1938; however, many were busy with the diving season as they had to earn a living. People had to afford to live independently from working.

The education department was more independent in the 1950s, which is opposite to the current system, as Hussein had the confidence of the Amir and did not have a council that supervised it. They built schools, oversaw public parks and were able to implement progressive visions, as school lunches were seen as a way to provide a healthy food intake among students. Most institutions in the 1960s were nationalist in nature, yet they didn’t have the freedom they had in the 1950s. Eid Al-Wahda oversaw celebrations with a pan-Arab flag, as girls became more involved in schools.

At this time, Jassem Al-Qatami, a prominent Arab nationalist and former MP, called for an end to tribal rules, leading to the government striking down all Arab nationalist movements. After 1961, the movement declined, never regaining its previous strength. During the lecture, Dr Nafisi stated: “I would like to thank Dr Al-Rashoud for this wonderful lecture. He shed light on the fact that Kuwait was not reliant on foreign influences alone but had its own local activity,” stressing that education played a role through the locals who had incentives to further expand education.

Dr Botz-Bornstein said: “Our concept is to establish global interconnections in the world, specializing in the Middle East as well as other regions. Our events are usually organized around history, politics, and sometimes culture.” He added: “The lecture today was about Kuwaiti history, which is a continuation of the lecture we had in December. The period and subject Dr Al-Rashoud discussed are interesting topics that are really obscure, especially for non-Kuwaitis.”

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