GERARD INSTITUTE, SIDON
This institution, now so well established, is the outgrowth of a missionary necessity. After a trial of fifteen years, it was found that, as a rule, the college graduates were not available as teachers of village schools, and as ordinary religious helpers. They were not content with the moderate salaries, nor a return to simple village life and habits. It was, therefore, voted in August, 1881, that, "in view of the want of a grade of teachers in the mission, intermediate between college graduates and the graduates of common schools, the different stations (Sidon, Abeih, Tripoli , and Zahleh) be authorized to educate a class of pupil-teachers in the high schools at the central stations of each field, and to furnish in whole or in part the cost of the board of the pupils while studying."
In accordance with this vote, Sidon station authorized Mr. W. K. Eddy to open a boarding department in the day-school for boys in Sidon, October, 188 1, the boys being chiefly from the neighbouring villages. A part of them brought their own food, and slept at the school.
About 1882, a boys' boarding-school was also opened in Suk el Gharb, Mount Lebanon, by Rev. T. S. Pond, of the Abeih station, and one at a later date, 1885, in Zahleh, by Rev. G. F. Dale, Jr., but the boarding department of the school was discontinued at his death, October, 1886, after one year's trial, for lack of a missionary superintendent.
In August, 1886, Dr. G. A. Ford, by appointment, read a paper before the mission on boys' boarding-schools. He said in part:
"In view of the suspension of Abeih Seminary, the opening of the theological seminary in Beirut, the change in the college from Arabic to English, after the Abeih Seminary was closed, and the difficulty of depending on the college for plain teachers and preachers, and there being no institution preparatory to the theological seminary where a first-class Arabic or Bible education can be obtained; and in view of the gradual disappearance of the men trained in Abeih under Mr. Calhoun, a falling off in the grade of native helpers; the drain Egypt makes on the class of highly-educated men; and the drifting of the boys' boarding schools in Sidon and Suk beyond the scope of the vote under which they were founded ; it is evident that there is need of an intermediate education for Christian workers. A similar need is felt in England and America." Dr. Ford quoted the General Assembly, the Methodists, Drs. Crosby, Cuyler, Craighead, Dykes, Spurgeon's Lay College, H. G. Guinness' Missionary Institute, and Moody's Bible Training-Schools in Chicago and Northfield.
Mr. Calhoun had said, in 1859: "To the Scriptures we give increased attention. The Bible is doing more to unfold and expand the intellectual powers and to create careful and honest thinkers, than all the science we teach, and at the same time is the chief instrument in ridding mind and heart of those hateful doctrines and traditions, which are the heritage of these sons of the Church (i. e., Greeks, Maronites and Catholics)."
The plea for an intermediate training-school was urged on the ground of enlargement, simplicity, rapidity and economy. Dr. Ford urged that two schools be opened, one a vernacular Bible training-school, excluding English; the other a thorough Arabic academic course, with English enough to enable pupils to enter the college.
In 1890 Mr. March read a paper on boys' boarding- schools, urging that the mission should set apart for this work the best man with the strongest mind and warmest heart that the mission can afford. He urged that the college course is too long and expensive, and its graduates cannot supply teachers for the common schools. In fact, up to 1890, seventy-two of the boys trained in the mission boarding-schools had become teachers in the common schools.
The mission had often discussed the need of an industrial department in our training-schools. The educated boys were leaving school with no means of support. All could not be teachers. Education of the head without the hand had unfitted them to work as their fathers had before them. What Syria needed was a body of educated men who could work as carpenters, tailors, shoemakers and farmers, and support themselves. Thus far much had been said, but nothing done. To Dr. G. A. Ford is due the credit of having made the ideal actual. In June, 1893, the mission voted approving the establishment of an industrial orphanage for boys, under evangelical management and American superintendence, and asking for an endowment of $25,000, apart from the cost of property, building and equipment. In 1894, Dr. Ford presented an elaborate paper on industrial training, and in January, 1895, it was agreed that industrial training be begun as an integral part of Sidon Academy, now Gerard Institute.
In 1894, $15,000 were raised: $6,500 by Mrs. Wood, $4,000 by Dr. Ford, and $4,550 by Dr. H. H. Jessup, and in 1895 the Miyeh-wa-miyeh farm was purchased, and the progress of the industrial school approved by the mission. Carpentry, tailoring, shoemaking and masonry were begun and successfully carried on. Eight thousand dollars was expended for land, $4,000 for additional buildings, $1,000 for implements, $1,000 for raw materials for trades, and $1,000 for running expenses the first year. Mrs. George Wood of New York, who bad already munificently given towards the erection of Wood Hall for the Sidon Boys' School, and the Judaideh school and dwelling-house, now gave new proofs of her broad-minded generosity. Through her aid more land was purchased. Artesian boring apparatus was imported, with the aid of Mrs. Livingston Taylor of Cleveland, who gave $4,000 for that department of the work and engineers came from America and made successive borings for water. Much the most successful one is in the campus of Wood Hall. Pipes were driven down 900 feet, and a stream of pure water rose nearly to the surface from over 70P feet depth, and an hydraulic ram forces the water up to, An elevated tank, from which it flows to the Gerard Institute and the girls' boarding-school at the other end of the city, supplying all the needs of the American colony, with a surplus that could be sold to the city.
In May, 1900, the name of Sidon Academy was changed to Gerard Institute, in honour of the maiden name of Mrs. George Wood. This name covers the literary, industrial and orphan departments.
An orphan house and school building has been erected on the Miyeh-wa-miyeh farm, known as Beulah Home, and extensive irrigating works have been constructed in the valley, on the northeast, vastly increasing the value and productiveness of the farm, This farm with its wheat fields, mulberry, olive and orange orchards, is expected to yield an annual net income of at least $1,000, for the support of the orphanage. Ramapo Hall is now being erected on the farm on an elevation overlooking Sidon and the sea.
During the visit of Rev. Dr. Brown to Syria in 1902, Mrs. Wood added to her already generous benefactions the following splendidly munificent proposal:
"Having long cherished a desire to add to the permanence and scope of the Mission Training-School for Boys at Sidon, it gives me double pleasure to connect the offers I am prepared to make with the auspicious occasion of your first secretarial visit to Syria. Allow me, then, through you, to make to the mission and the Board, for the benefit of Gerard Institute, the following offer:
1. Fifteen hundred dollars in cash already loaned by me to the stock account of the industrial department of the Gerard Institute.
2. Such a sum in cash (not to exceed $10,000) as may be required to erect needful buildings at 'Dar Es Salaam.'
3. The loan of such a further sum in cash without interest, as might be required to carry out any plans I the Board and mission may decide upon, said loan being fully covered in their judgment by assets of the mission for the purpose becoming available in a few years' time.
4. The title deeds for the new building for the orphans! With reference to the consolidation of the boarding-school known as 'Beulah Home' - with the large tract of land on which it stands and the forest tract near by.
5. An annual sum (not exceeding $1,000) to cover any needed outlay towards securing more efficient instruction in the manual department.
6. An annual sum (not exceeding $1,000) to cover the cost of maintaining the orphan department with a maximum of twenty boys, including the wages of the farm overseer.
"When the plans of the mission relative to these offers shall have been matured, I shall be ready to take all requisite measures to satisfy the Board and the mission regarding the security of my offers and their permanent validity."
This offer was unanimously and cordially accepted by the Syria Mission and by the Board, so that the Gerard Institute now has a larger financial support than any other boarding school in the world connected with our work. I cannot speak too highly of the value of Mrs. Wood's intelligent, sympathetic and self-sacrificing cooperation. She has given unstintedly of her time, her strength and her money, and without her assistance the institute never could have become what it is today.
The institute is situated in the city of Sidon, but while the situation is convenient, it was too small before Mrs. Wood's offer, and it is altogether impossible from the view-point of the enlarged plans which her generosity has permitted. There can be no expansion in Sidon proper, for the adjoining property on both sides is owned by parties who will not sell, while the tract across the street is a Moslem cemetery. It is, moreover, desirable that such a school should have a larger area than would be possible in a crowded Oriental city, especially as the farm is to form a prominent feature of the work of the school. Accordingly a large tract of land has been secured about two miles from the city. It lies on the summit and slope of a high hill and commands one of the noblest views in all the East. It is a superb site for an institution ; near enough to the city to be easy of access, and yet far enough away to give ample room for development. The Beulah Home Orphanage is already established at this site, and the whole institute will be transferred to it as soon as the necessary buildings can be erected, though it is probable that some work, particularly the day-schools, will continue to be done at the old site. The industrial departments are (1) farming and gardening; (2) masonry and plastering; (3) carpentry and joining; (4) tailoring; (5) blacksmithing, etc.; (6) shoemaking.
A serious difficulty has been experienced in finding suitable Christian instructors. None of the missionaries had the requisite technical knowledge, and the resources of the institute did not permit the employment of suitable superintendents from the United States. As a temporary makeshift, therefore, arrangements were made with local tailors, carpenters, masons, etc., they to give free instruction to such boys as wished to learn their respective trades and to take the profits of the shops for their compensation. This plan has worked well enough financially. It has given foremen without cost to the institute, while on the other hand, free student labour has been a sufficient incentive to the local workmen. The difficulty is that these foremen have had, usually, no thorough training themselves, their knowledge being limited to the native methods and that they are apt to lack the patience and skill required to impart what they do know to a lot of boys who may be but languidly interested. Even more serious is the fact that such foremen, while men of excellent character, are for the most part not evangelical Protestants, so that they are unable to exert that spiritual influence which we regard as so essential. In time, it is fair to expect that graduates of the institute will become available for foremen in the various departments, and special effort should be made to develop the right men for this purpose. But for so large a school, a foreign mechanical superintendent is urgently needed, and with the added resources now made available by Mrs. Wood's offer, it is hoped that Dr. Ford can carry out his long cherished desire to obtain a foreign assistant, who will unite mechanical skill and missionary character.
The boarding section of the primary department has now been removed to the Beulah Home on the farm. The orphanage edifice has been enlarged, and now has some fifty pupils. Mr. Stuart D. Jessup has entered upon his duties as teacher in Gerard Institute in the city. Buildings are now in process of erection (1909) on the farm hill. The main building is to be known as Ramapo Hall, the funds having been given to Dr. Ford by the Ramapo Church.
In December, 1903, Mr. Stuart D. Jessup in his annual report of the institute gave some valuable facts about the training of native helpers. In this paper it was stated that of 1,019 students who have attended Gerard Institute up to 1902' 164 have taught in mission schools for from one to fourteen years, or nearly eight per year.
Of 144 native helpers now employed by the mission, forty-seven received their training in whole or in part at Gerard, twenty-eight at Suk el Gharb, twenty-three at the college, sixteen at the old Abeih Academy, six at Shweir, fourteen at other mission schools and ten had no academic training.
Of the thirty-five native preachers in the Syria Mission, ordained and licentiates, six received no academic training. Of the remaining twenty-nine, ten were trained in the old Abeih. Academy, ten at Gerard, four at Suk, three at the college, and two at other mission schools.
It is clear, then, that such schools as Gerard and Suk are a necessity as long as native Syrian teachers and helpers are needed. The teaching of English in these schools is justified, 1st, by the fact that many of the boys intend to enter the college; 2d, that those who become teachers of common schools may be able to teach the rudiments of English.
The English occupation of Egypt and the emigration of tens of thousands of Syrians to America have given the English language an impetus in these old lands of Western Asia, which obliges all schools to teach English or lose their pupils. Emigrants are constantly writing to their friends left behind in Syria, "Be sure and send your children to the American and English schools!"