Al-Thager Model School
|Al-Thager Model School|
|Director||Saud Al Khudaidi|
A secondary school in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the Al-Thager Model School (Arabic: مدارس الثغر النموذجية, the name roughly is "The Haven") is a two-story building that used to house both primary and secondary grades, as well as residential dormitories on the second level.
Faisal bin Abdul Aziz founded the school in Taif in the early 1950s. In 1964 Faisal opened a large campus for the school in Jeddah, and from that point forward, arranged an annual fund of several million Saudi riyals from the national budget. Kamal Adham, Faisal's Turkish father-in-law, traveled to the United Kingdom to meet officials from the government. Adham told the officials that the school ought to be modeled after Victoria College, a school in Khartoum, Sudan inspired by British education. The Government of Saudi Arabia provided funds and staff members for the school. Steve Coll, author of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, said that during the 1960s and 1970s Al-Thager "had the reputation of a private enclave for the sons of businessmen and the royal family." Al-Thager became the most prestigious school in Jeddah.
The school's entrance examinations were open to all Saudis. Some lower class Saudis were granted acceptance and attended the school with wealthier Saudis. Around that era, each graduating class consisted of around 60 boys. During that period many Egyptian and Syrian teachers, who had been involved in dissident Islamic organizations in their home countries, taught at Al-Thager, as many did in other Saudi primary and secondary schools and universities. Coll said in the 1960s and early 1970s that the school "had a relatively secular flavor."
Around the early 1970s many Al-Thager students engaged in political debates. One group of students, influenced by Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, were in favor of Pan-Arab nationalism. Another group of students, influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, were in favor of additional Islamic influence in politics in the Arab world. Coll said that Al-Thager was "a conspicuous example of modernization without secularization."
In the 1960s the school campus was located near downtown Jeddah, with the campus north of Old Jeddah Road. A two story concrete and fieldstone building served as the school's main classroom building. Steve Coll, author of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, said that the building was in a "featureless modern style." The school had two classroom wings, one for middle school students and one for high school students. An interior courtyard was located between the wings.
In the 1960s most students were day students and commuted to school. The boarding students and some foreign teachers lived in dormitories on the school's second floor.
Curriculum and discipline
Steve Coll, author of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, said that in the 1960s and 1970s Al-Thager "prided itself on its modern curicculum" and that it was the only Saudi school that "could even begin to compare itself to a place like" Brummana High School in Brummana, Lebanon. During that period the school had English instruction provided by many foreign English teachers from England and Ireland. Al-Thager, like other Saudi schools, had religion as a core component in the instruction. At noon, the boys performed zuhr, the Islamic prayer at noontime. Each morning, the school prompted boys in a military-style call of order to assemble in rows. Teachers had canes, and disciplined boys by striking their feet.
The students wear western-style school uniforms seen in American and British university preparatory schools; in most Saudi schools for boys, the students wear thobes and cloth headdresses. During the 1960s and 1970s, students wore white oxford shirts with ties, grey trousers, black socks, and black shoes. During winter periods students wore charcoal-coloured blazers.
Osama bin Laden began attending Al-Thager in 1968, either in the fifth or sixth grade. Osama's education at Al-Thager ended in 1976. Former teachers, Brian Fyfield-Shayler and Seamus O’Brien gave an interview to the The New Yorker in which they claimed that they remembered teaching Osama bin Laden at the school. Some of Osama's half-brothers were enrolled at Al-Thager.
- Coll, Steve. The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century. New York City: The Penguin Press, 2008.
- Al-Thager Model School (Arabic)