Al-Ahliah girls’ college (1934-1975)

1934 - Al-Ahliah girls’ college (1934-1975)

Flourishing an Education Based on Self-Confidence (1934-1975)

Mary Kassab was succeeded by Wadad Cortas, (Principal 1934-74), who continued with her predecessor’s mission. She created different programs and streams for girls to follow and introduced special extracurricular education through the daily assemblies (dar al Ijtima’a) during which, prominent members of the community and visitors to Lebanon, teachers and the Principal, addressed the students on different timely topics. The school hosted, in 1939, the Association of Amateur Musicians led by Alexis Butros to involve Ahliah students in music and later, started with him at the school, a program for performing arts that included choreographic dancing, ballet and drama. These programs became the nuclei of the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA), founded by Alexis Butros in 1943 with Wadad Cortas being its General Executive Secretary.

The Ahliah choir, now incorporated into the ALBA choir performed 99 classical concerts in Lebanon as well as in Jerusalem, Cairo and Istanbul. During this period, the school attracted students from all over the Arab world and foreign students whose parents wanted them to study in a mixed environment rather than in a uniform community school such as the American or British Community Schools then. The school students consisted of 27 nationalities in the 1960s.

The school outreached the community through the well-attended Wednesday weekly Mujaddara lunches to which prominent local and foreign panelists were invited to discuss controversial issues with the public. The proceeds went to support vocational training in the Palestinian camps and as of the 1990s, the event became annual and supports the school development and financial aid fund.

Through all these activities, Wadad Cortas expressed herself as a strong advocate of women’s rights and succeeded in empowering young women at Ahliah. She was an Arab nationalist who sought to protect and liberate Arab culture and values. She insisted that Arabic remain the primary language at the school when she took over and pushed back against the growing chorus of Francophones, who appeased the authorities of the French mandate. She openly fought for inclusion, struggled against sectarianism and championed liberation of Palestine. Open for multilingualism, she made English the second language at the school and French, the third.

Miss Mona Amyouni became Principal in 1975 and held the fort until the temporary closure of the school at the end of the School year.

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