THE SIDON GIRLS' BOARDING-SCHOOL
A glance at the map of Syria, showing three American boarding-schools for girls on the Syrian coast, within a distance of seventy miles, has led some to criticize a policy of such educational concentration. But the explanation is easy. Each of these schools has been a providential growth. The Syrian people can best be reached through village schools. Schools are an entering wedge, and open the way for the Church and the organized Protestant community. But these schools must have teachers, and the girls' schools must have teachers from the villages where they are opened. To meet this need and to train educated wives for Protestant men, there must be boarding schools. Dr. De Forest opened the first girls' boarding school in Syria. On his departure, the Board sent Miss Temple and Miss Johnson, who transferred the school from Beirut to Suk el Gharb in 1858. The massacres of 1860 broke up the school, and the same circumstances which made it impolitic to reopen the school in Lebanon demanded its opening in Sidon. Miss Johnson having returned to America, Miss Mason came in her place, and as the Civil War in America had crippled the funds of the Board, Miss Mason was directed to open, in October, 1862, a day-school in Sidon, and girls from the outlying villages, in attendance, were to board in the families of native Protestants in the city at the expense of the mission.
Miss Mason resigned in 1865, having had the aid of Mrs. W. W. Eddy, and Mrs. Ford in carrying on the school. The mission then decided to place the school wholly in charge of a Syrian principal and teachers, under the supervision of Mrs. Eddy. This was a pet object with those who originated the Beirut Female Seminary, and the Syrian Protestant College. It succeeded in Beirut Seminary for six years and then failed' as the rarely gifted Syrian preceptress, Miss Rufka Gregory, had no successor, and Miss E. D. Everett was called to take her place. It was in reality never tried in the Syrian Protestant College nor could it have been tried.
As the American Board were loath to send another American in Miss Mason's place, this plan of a Syrian principal was triedBut in the fall and winter of 1867, Mrs. H. Watson, an English lady of long experience as a teacher, and her Syrian adopted daughter, Miss Handumeh Shekkur Watson, took charge of the school. Afterwards it was conducted by Misses Jacombs and Stainton, English ladies, from 1871 to July, 1876. These ladies were supported by the then prosperous "Society for the Promotion of Female Education in the East." The courtesy shown by this society in supplying Sidon Seminary so long was fully appreciated.
Meantime the hope of placing it under a Syrian principal and staff was abandoned. In October, 1876, Miss Harriette M. Eddy, having completed her education in the United States and returned as an appointed missionary, took charge of the school. She continued in it for twelve years, until her marriage to Rev. F. E. Hoskins, August, 1888. During this period she had been assisted by Misses M. M. Lyons (1877-1880), E. Bird, B. M. Nelson (1881-1885), S. Ford (1883), Rebecca Brown (1885-1892), Charlotte Brown (1885). On the return of Miss R. Brown to America in 1892, Miss Ellen M. Law came to the school, and was followed in November, 1893, by her sister, Miss M. Louise Law. In 1892-1893, Miss M. T. M. Ford taught in Sidon Seminary, Mrs. Gerald F. Dale, Jr., in 1893-1894, Miss F. M. Jessup for the year (1901) and in December, 1902, Miss Horne came to Sidon and remained there nearly two years. The school is now (1908) under the charge of Misses Charlotte Brown and Louise Law.
It now has about fifty boarding pupils, and quite a number of day scholars. In its curriculum it has vibrated between a purely vernacular basis and a broader one teaching the English language. It has aimed at admitting only Protestant girls, whether paying pupils or not, and its graduates form now the best element in the Christian womanhood of the whole mission field east and south of Sidon, in scores of villages and hundreds of homes. It does not aim at as high a standard of the Beirut Seminary, and its graduates often enter the Beirut "Teacher's Class," to fit them as first-class teachers, but it gives a solid and substantial education.
It must be remembered that Syria has no public schools. The only government schools virtually receive only Moslem children, and exclude the Christian sects. The system is narrow, bigoted and short-sighted, intended to bolster up Islam, and ignore Christianity. "While nominally for all sects, yet probably not more than one per cent of their pupils are from the Oriental Christian sects." (the London Times, January, 1905). [The programme of the new liberal government includes common schools for all and universal education.]
Every Christian sect is, therefore, forced to educate its own children, and thus the children of the various sects in the empire grow up ignorant of each other, and the ancient racial and religious hatreds are perpetuated. Protestant schools open their doors to all. Yet the authorities, fearing the light, threaten all Moslem children attending Protestant schools. As a rule the Protestant schools are so much better than others, that they are crowded with pupils of all sects. An educated Protestant young woman in a village, teaching the children, teaches the mothers as well, and becomes the counsellor and guide of all, respected and beloved. Each village school becomes a fountain of light and blessing.
Sidon school has thus far educated 566 boarders and seventy-eight day pupils in the upper department. Of these, 190 are known to have united with the Church; and of these, about 140 of the graduates have become teachers in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt.