KUWAIT, — The early 1900’s were trying times for Kuwait, demanding much effort from this country’s men and women.
Men were out enduring the unkindness of the sea for months at end while women were in their homes single-handedly managing the household and the extended family.
With such realities being part of daily life, Al-Katatib, a traditional form of schooling, took center stage in the social and educational development of the country.
Heading these fine educational establishments were “Al-Mutawas” and “Mullas” (teachers) who taught basic arithmetic and science in addition to the Quran, the Arabic language, as well as the Hadiths (sayings and traditions) of Prophet Mohammad.
These traditional schools were run from either the teacher’s home or from a rented one.
Students were taught while seated on the ground with their teachers ensconced on a wooden box at the head of the classroom.
A typical lesson would have Al-Mutawa loudly repeating verses from the Quran and the students would repeat the same verses until they memorize them.
Upon the completion of the Quran’s study and memorization, the students were honored with the “Khatmah,” an event commemorating the end of this noble task.
While both boys and girls were allowed to attend Al-Katatib, the boys were taught various subjects by a male instructor in contrast to the girls who were taught by a female teacher with the apt title of “Mutawa’a”.
Back then, girls’ education was limited to memorizing the Quran as it seemed useless or unnecessary to learn anything else.
A student’s tuition was a mere “Baizah” or “Baiztain,” a very small amount of money in addition to “Al-Khamisiyah” collected weekly on a Thursday.
Considering how revered a teacher was, Al-Mutawa was gifted money during holidays such as the Islamic New Year, the Prophet’s Birthday, or even on the Eid occasions.
An additional cost of 20 to 100 rupees was paid upon the completion of memorizing the Quran, depending on the financial capabilities of that student.
In addition to the fees, the financially able students presented gifts to their teachers and in return the students expected gifts from the teachers on special occasions.
In order to encourage the students to pursue further education and better their quality of life, members of society would collectively pitch in and pay for those students incapable of funding themselves.
A form of recurring disciplinary actions in schools was corporal punishment. It was incorporated in the education system back in the day.
Punishing a student was the consequence of bad behavior, absence, or neglecting homework.
Parents condoned their punishment through an old saying that goes, “the bones are for us, while the meat is for you,” signifying to the teacher that while the child belongs to us, their rearing and discipline fall on the teacher.
Al-Katatib helped promote an understanding and awareness of the importance of thought and intellect in society which led to the establishment of educational institutions with formal curriculums.
Al-Mubarkiya was the first school founded in 1911 while the second was Al-Ahmadiya in 1921. Kuwait now has much more than a thousand schools with thousands of students attending each year.
Source: Name News Network