INSHALLAH:



A PRIVATE SCHOOL FOR PRIVILEGED KUWAITI
YOUTH ATTEMPTS TO STRADDLE A CULTURAL DIVIDE (continued)



Chapter 08 THE WORLD OF AL-DHARRA MADRESSOR

 

 

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VIII: THE WORLD OF AL-DHARRA MADRESSOR


A. The Place of Al-Dharra

This chapter will attempt to place Al-Dharra Madressor into the social and historical context already detailed in the previous chapters. It will conclude by showing some of the social dynamics of the school environment.

Functionally, as the previous chapter showed, Al-Dharra fills a unique niche. A parent who wants an American-style, bilingual education, in a co-educational environment really must choose Al-Dharra. To put this slightly differently, a parent who wants to put a child in a bilingual, American-style school must at least tolerate a co-educational environment and choose Al-Dharra. Further, Al-Dharra strikes one of the most equal divisions between Arabic and English in the Kuwaiti educational market.

This chapter, however, turns to a related subject. In choosing Al-Dharra, a parent also chooses to enroll his or her children with members of a particular social class, the Asil, and, even more narrowly, a certain group of families of Asil. Thus, Al-Dharraís status relates as much to class (or tribe) as to education. In this context, recall a remark made previously by an elderly Kuwaiti man (in Longva, 1997):

Imagine seeing strangers everywhere around you, including in your own homes. We used to know all the Kuwaitis and to trust each other. In the old days, when someone made a promise, you knew he would keep it. We were like a big family. Now everyone is a stranger. You don't know whom to trust any more. (pp. 124-125, emphasis added)

Then add to this a solution proposed by one of the younger women cited earlier (in Longva, 1997):

Sometimes, I think we should do that, too, withdraw to a ghetto where we would be only amongst ourselves....We want to hear Kuwaiti spoken out there, see Kuwaiti people, and have Kuwaiti manners around us. This is our home. We don't want to lose it. We want to be able to live here in our own way. (pp. 124-125, emphasis added)

In reality, this section will show that in some ways Al-Dharra represents both of these desires, an attempt to bring back some of the closeness of Kuwaiti culture and, more negatively, to build a ghetto in which no one else can enter.

For much of the information in this section, this author relied heavily on external observations and two in-depth interviews with ADM teachers. The researcher interviewed Karen Al-Jinnah (Al-Jinnah, 2001), English and PE teacher, who has taught at ADM since 1982 and Jan Al-Khansa (Al-Khansa, 2002), science teacher and school counselor, who has taught at ADM since 1983. Both women married Kuwaiti husbands and their children, some in each family, graduated from both ADM and the public schools, and both also have reasonably good bilingual skills. For full details of their interviews, refer to Appendix One.

Before examining the world of ADM, the financial situation of the school requires some consideration.



B. The Economic Status of the School

Since all corporations require at least 50% Kuwaiti ownership (Kennedy, 1998), a Kuwaiti needs to hold at least partial ownership of any private school. This happened in the case of Al-Dharra Madressor, in which the school owner, Lulwa Al-Sharifa, created a family-owned firm, Lulwa Al-Sharifa Incorporated (LASAK), charged with owning and running the school. Hence all documentation regarding the school bears the heading "SAK," registered within Kuwait. A school formed by a group of merchant families functions, perhaps appropriately enough, as a business. Two distinct points, however, distinguish ADM from, on the one hand, other Kuwaiti private schools, and from other private enterprises within Kuwait.

First, from its inception, ADM functioned as a non-profit corporation (ADM 1, 1998). Hence, like a charity, it still needs to pay its officers, its teachers, and its business managers, etc., but the corporation does not exist to enrich the lives of its owners. This distinguishes ADM from almost all other Kuwaiti private schools that operate for profit. All documentation about the school (ADM 1, 1998; ADM 2, 1998) boasts about this point.

However, this distinction may not hold as much importance as the literature suggests. Some of the other private schools in Kuwait, profit motive or no, simply do not make a profit. Their owners, moreover, often, as in the case of Al-Dharra, contribute their own funds to continue the schools. Further, Al-Dharra not only at one time employed its principal owner, but also made lucrative deals with business partners of the family (ADM 1, 1998). For example, the teachers for a long time lived in an apartment building owned by a close friend of the school owner, an arrangement of obvious mutual benefit. In theory, though, ADM exists only for the purpose of pursuing education.

A second point pertains to the subject of raising capital for the school. As mentioned in previous sections, often a business in Kuwait starts with almost no capital from the Kuwaiti "owners;" the foreigners put up the money. This generality does not hold true for schools, and all of the money for ADM came from Kuwaiti families, none from foreigners. Not only did these families put up the initial funding, but in times of need, they loaned and gave additional amounts of money (ADM 12, 1995).

Therefore, this makes Al-Dharra Madressor a school founded and funded by Kuwaitis. Further, the school exists not to make money for the owners but for the explicit purpose of educating students and, as suggested above, for the implicit purpose of maintaining a certain type of social environment. For that reason, this analysis next turns to the subject of the woman behind Al-Dharra, its founder.



C. The Founder

At this point, we turn to an individual, Lulwa Al-Sharifa (in American parlance, one would term her "Lulwa Al-Zohra," adding her husbandís last name, but Arab practice has a woman retain her fatherís original last name), the founder of the school. For this section of the chapter, this researcher relied on reports of those acquainted with the owner; however, a family member subsequently confirmed the information given here.

Due to her father's business operations, Lulwa spent most of her young girlhood in England. She even obtained a British university degree. When she came of age in the late 1950s, she returned to Kuwait.

This led to the major disappointment of her life: she did not fit in. The years away left her with little knowledge of Arabic. Further, in the tight social world of Kuwait, simply speaking Arabic did not suffice. She needed intimate knowledge of the Kuwaiti dialect (Blandford, 1976). Yet again, this shows the tribal nature of Kuwaiti society.

Though she eventually married one of the Al-Zohras, a cousin, she remained something of a "fish out of water" thereafter, never totally accepted either in Kuwait or in London. The fact that she enjoyed a good education and held forthright ideas about the role of women in society did not particularly help. In this respect, she continued two different traditions of strong women, one from her adopted country and the other from the merchant Asil.

All those who remember Lulwa Al-Sharifa describe her as strong, even for an Asil woman, and dynamic. One of the British businessmen long present in Kuwait whose wife teaches at KBS said as follows, "You donít remember when Lulwa Al-Sharifa was still alive. She was a powerhouse. She was wonderful." Inside the walls at the Jabriya campus hangs a portrait of her. She wears a long-flowing dress, and her arms stretch outward, seemingly embracing the entire school. She died in 1988, tragically young.

One can readily imagine how Al-Dharra Madressor fit into her perceptions of education. She sought to blend the best of "both worlds" (ADM 1, 1998) in a school that would prevent what happened to her from happening again. Basically, graduates would have the ability to move from one world to the other, Arab to Western, not feeling out of place in either. As a logical corollary, ADM educated boys and girls together, as she had experienced in England, an idea she found more modern and liberal than contemporary Kuwaiti practice. She hoped Al-Dharra students could obtain the benefits of a modern education and a familiarity with the West without leaving the traditions of Kuwait.

On a more personal level, one can think of the whole enterprise as designing a school for her two children, Dalal and Noor, both of whom attended Al-Dharra and currently alternate serving as school owner. Dalal eventually graduated from ADM while Noor would have graduated except that her 1990 graduation year coincided with the Iraqi invasion.

Dalal came under criticism in the ECIS Five-year Re-Accreditation Report (ADM 12, 1995) for his decision to continue running the school at a loss. For years, he simply gave the school money whenever it fell short of its budget. Finally, in 1997, he hired a new director tasked with making the school more solvent.

Dalal Al-Zohra initially charged Dr. Ralph Newman with getting the school out of debt and repaying the amount of money Dalalís family unofficially loaned over the years. Interestingly, over the last three years, this goal gradually changed. First, the owner modified the plan so that the school would amass an amount equivalent to the amount he loaned, which the school would put into a trust fund for future years, i.e., never repaying the owner. In 2002, Dr. Ralph revealed that the schoolís board scrapped that goal in favor of reducing class size. This suggests that the entire goal of repaying the family came as response to the ECIS criticism, which gradually lost its sense of urgency. The owner did emphasize, however, that the family could no longer afford to loan more money, a very different point.

In a way, this gets ahead of the argument, but it makes an important point: the owning family did not run ADM for economic reasons. The owners could easily have run a licensed business with foreign workers and made far more money. One can consider that the school, in part, serves as the motherís memorial; certainly, the family believes in the school. At another level, however, one can think of the school in terms of family prestige in the Asil community.

The school owners comprise an exclusive club in Kuwait who compete with one another. They compete not only on the basis of profit but also on the basis of running a better school. Often these goals do not conflict: the better school builds a reputation that attracts students and makes a profit. When the goals conflict, owners, such as that of KAS, sometimes choose to run their schools at a loss to maintain their familyís and schoolís reputation. Still, in both the cases above, the school running in the red and the school paying off its owner, ADMís owner consistently chose the schoolís reputation as an institution over that of its profitability.

To get some measure of the importance of the relationship of the school to the family, when the founderís mother passed away, 80% of the school missed class to attend her memorial (Al-Khansa, 2002).



D. The Founding/Central Families

The last chapter emphasized the relatively high percentage of Kuwaitis present in ADM and its relatively low number of nationalities (21) in contrast with other schools in Kuwait. Previously, this study mentioned MPs, Secretaries of Education, and leaders of the Parliamentary opposition, all of whom send their children to Al-Dharra Madressor. This analysis must make a more general point concerning wealth and class.

First, consider the families listed by Ismael as serving in the 1979 Parliament. The asterisks indicate those families present at Al-Dharra (Note: all names have undergone aliasing).

The same names appear in Ismaelís list of families holding membership on the boards of three or more major share-holding corporations. None of this seems particularly surprising when recalling this authorís earlier statement: wealth tends to follow wastah. Remember that families continue to own most corporations in Kuwait; hence this listing does not show the American practice of important businessmen serving on several company boards, but rather family ownership (Ismael 1979, p. 86)

This list separates the Shia for reasons explained below. Most of the same names re-appear yet again in Farah's list of the leading Sunni and Shia families dominating the Cabinets in the 1970s and 1980s (Assiri, 1988) and holding seats in Parliament in Figure 8.3, below. Figure 8.4 indicates that, while these families lost some influence in Parliament, they remain a potent force.



To show the relevance of this to ADM, when this author went to make airline bookings for a Model United Nations trip, the booking agent, a Syrian, after looking at names of the students and the copies of the passport pages that list parentsí names, exclaimed: "Do you know who these people are!"

The agent made it clear that he did. Some of them, he explained, numbered among the ten richest families in all of the Middle East. Clearly, the most prominent families in Kuwait enrolled and continue to enroll in ADM. In addition, one might add some families of newer fortunes, such as the Maleks, Al-Shiribs, and to the Shia, that of the Persanis and the Alarafis.

When Lulwa Al-Sharifa decided to found the school, she first sold the idea to her "family." "Family," in this instance, means family in the Arabic sense, not the nuclear sense. Four particular last names, Al-Sharifas, Al-Zohras (Ben Zohras), Al-Maleks, and Al-Sharqs intermarry so much that one of the Al-Maleks, Sara, when helping this author trying to trace the inter-connected marriages finally explained: "Mr. Dan, the Al-Zohras are Al-Sharifas. The Al-Maleks, the Al-Sharqs, theyíre all one family."

Members of the school community sometimes refer to Al-Dharra saying, "Al-Dharra is a family school;" Arab outsiders to the school somewhat derisively refer to Al-Dharra as, "The Kunaie School." The name literally refers to a particular extended family that includes the Al-Kunaie, Al-Zohras, Al-Sharifas, Al-Maleks, and Al-Sharqs, henceforth referred to as the Five Families.

This forms a descriptive label as well as something of a derisive remark. The statement seems to imply that the school somehow does not merit the status of an educational institution. In terms of the importance of the Five Families, though, it forms a fairly accurate description not only of their importance but also of their own feelings about the school. "They," the family, own it. Hence, when their relative asked for money to rebuild and update the school after the war, he found no trouble raising the funds. Chapter twelve displays this sense with some particular items on the general survey given to students.

At a level slightly removed, a large number of students relate, as indicated above, to members of the historic Parliament of 1938. In this case, one can trace the number of these families present through looking at the last names of any particular class (grade level). It helps here that school records list the married mothers according to the name of their father, making it easy to tell which families joined. Using this information, this researcher analyzed the class of 2001, shown below. The designation "Parliamentary" refers to families in the Parliament of 1938:

Logically, one might expect an even higher percentage of "Parliamentary parents." However, this does not fully measure the degree of relatedness among students. For examples, only the Al-Sharqs attended the Parliament of 1938. However, since the five central families of the school consider themselves as the same family as the Al-Sharqs, i.e., the Kunaie, one might consider them all as Al-Sharqs even though the one attending the Parliament bore the name "Al-Sharq." This considerably alters the statistics, as follows:

Assuming a similar degree of inter-relatedness between, say the Al-Badrianis and Al-Bhoudans, and for other families, one can safely consider the Parliamentary percentage as well over 50%. In fact, Jan Al-Khansa, school counselor, suggests as high as 80% (Al-Khansa, 2002) of the students relate to one another.

Nor has the recent expansion of the school much changed the composition of the school in terms of this group. This author recently asked some of the students if they thought the schoolís growth meant a smaller percentage of students coming from the Five Families. One of the more astute of them stated: "Thereís more students, but the percentages stay about the same."

In fact, a quick study of the following year shows the percentages of both the Parliamentary group (13%) and the more expanded Parliamentary group both falling. However, five of the fathers in the group currently hold parliamentary seats in the Liberal Bloc. Hence, the school contains not only 20% of the children of the current Parliament but also almost the entirety of the Liberal Bloc. While the school may not literally hold the same percentage of Parliamentary members, it certainly continues the tradition of educating children of the Parliamentary opposition.

Beyond the Five Families, one can trace several other important networks of families. For example, one can trace another set of relationships around the Al-Ghanims. The Al-Ghanims did not attend the Parliament but traditionally served as Al-Sabah stewards. The Al-Ghanims have so much influence that a persistent rumors circulates that Al-Ghanim is really an alias for Sabah, just as rumor has it that an Al-Ghanim (Blandford, 1976) will only marry another Al-Ghanim or an Al-Sabah. However, at ADM, one finds ample evidence to the contrary as Al-Ghanims married Al-Qataris, Al-Shiribs, Al-Dalals, Al-Besars, and Al-Rumaihs.

Yet another set of relationships relates to the Hafmuds, another Parliamentary family. These, in turn relate to the Besars, Al-Otaibis, Al-Rahimis, Al-Ibrahamis, and Al-Butairis. Yet none of these relationships traces back to the Kunaie. They do, however, connect to the Al-Khalaidhis, yet another of the Parliamentary families.

Finally, one can turn to the Al-Sabah. In recent times, the Al-Sabah typically marry only other Al-Sabahs, a practice designed to consolidate power. However, at Al-Dharra, the Al-Sabahs trace themselves to the Al-Hafmuds via Al-Butairis, and, through the Al-Dalals back to the Al-Ghanims, their traditional stewards. In addition to the instances above, moreover, note that many students of the same name have two parents of the same last name, i.e., children of two brothers marry.

All of these above networks, of course, include Sunni Muslims. One can trace a separate network of Shia relationships tying together prominent Shia families. These, of course, include the Hanibehs and Persanis, who tend to marry one another. A few marriages link the Shia and Sunni families, but not many.

Beyond this, though, one finds some families not associated with any of the families above, Sunni or Shia. Of course, this includes the foreigners. It also includes the children of the staff members. Here one finds the odd Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, or Iranian as well as a couple of prominent Saudi families that inter-married into the Kuwaiti families and the occasional Western wife married by a male college student.

To give something of a sense of the sheer depth of relationship, consider the following anecdote. Last fall, an Islamic educator came to the school as a guest speaker. Contrary to general school practice at assemblies in which students sit either "where they wish" or in mixed-gender, class groups, the speaker insisted on segregating the audience so that boys and girls sat on opposite sides. After his speech, he opened himself up for questions. The PTA president, Dana Al-Malek, an adult, asked the first question. She said: "Why did you separate the children by boys and girls? Thereís nothing wrong with them sitting together like they were. They grew up together."

Essentially, she did not argue that boys and girl should sit together, which would totally contradict the research findings in chapter twelve. Rather, she suggested that the schoolís special situation, which parallels the gathering of a group of cousins, allowed them to mix freely. This sense of family might, on the contrary dissuade a parent from enrolling a child at ADM. As Jan Al-Khansa observers (2002):

[There are some reasons parents might not want to enroll, and] one thing would be boys and girls together. A second might be that depending on if theyíre not Kuwaiti, they might feel like they might not fit in that well, since weíre a close-knit group. Our students are related, and maybe 80% belong, distantly, to the same family.

Therefore, a picture emerges of Al-Dharra as a family school, and, more specifically, one dominated by a small group of related families. This should not seem so surprising given the Asil position of privilege and wealth in the economy. All of them hold the following points in common: Sunni, liberal, rich, businessmen, Asil. To marry similar people in the small community of tradition Kuwait, almost requires marrying relatives. The pattern of inter-marriage fills a wall chart, and the school includes cousins, uncles and aunts, etc. If this section attempts to explain the appellation of "Kunaie school," a better understanding of the ADM situation requires some consideration of the "Non-Kunaie" schools.



E. No Kuwaiti Spoken Here

Kuwaitis with the money of the Asil, of course, might choose any school in the State of Kuwait, and some do. For purpose of contrast, this section will consider the position of the Kuwaitis in ADM in comparison with that of Kuwaitis in KBS, Kuwait British School, (ECIS: KBS, 2001) and KAS, The Kuwait American School, (ECIS: KAS, 2001). First, note the smaller percentage of Kuwaitis as graphically depicted in the diagram below.


Figure 8.7: Contrasting Social Worlds of KBS, ADM, and KAS


All three schools, the Kuwait American School, Kuwait British School, and Al-Dharra Madressor, contain groups of Kuwaitis, if not Asil. At KBS, they constitute a minority and, as the drawing implies, a low-prestige minority, and the same holds true for their position in KAS.

In British KBS, which uses the British curriculum and teaches almost every class in English, the British expatriates and Indians set the school tone in terms of performance. Arab-speakers try, as best they can, to fit into the British experience. Unsurprisingly, the English language and British culture dominate. At a recent forensics contest in Kuwait, KBS entered a group of its top forensics students that included Indians and British, but not a single Kuwaiti. Their Model United Nations leadership group of ten only included one Arabic speaker. Hence, the following figures contrast Kuwaiti participation in these top academic activities with Kuwaiti percentage in the student body at KBS:

Anecdotally, teachers from KBS consider the Kuwaiti students in their classes as essentially a "necessary evil." The Kuwaitis attend the school, learn little, and perform less. They remain a troublesome minority, an annoying part of school life (ADM 13, 1998). KBS staff members, in fact, have more than once questioned how any foreigner can teach at an "all-Kuwaiti" school like ADM, a good indication of their experience with Kuwaitis at KBS.

At KAS one finds a very similar situation, only at KAS American English and American culture dominate. The non-Kuwaitis dominate the teams and activities of the school. Of KASís famous Model United Nations group, numbering over seventy, only a relative handful come from the host nation.

This leads to a rather interesting point from the Asil perspective. If other schools view ADM as the "Kunaie school," the school owned by and run for a particular group of related families, ADM students tend to view these schools as "foreign schools" in the sense that they contain nothing but foreigners and, even worse in their eyes, Kuwaitis who sometimes act and dress like foreigners.

In this case, one must consider Kuwaiti, Asil teenage behavior a bit. On any given afternoon or weekend, students dress in their most Western, but modest, clothes and go to the mall in same-sex groups, converse and shop. To see a mixed-gender group of Kuwaitis and foreigners dressed in the latest (usually American) teenage fashion speaking in loud, aggressive English voices, even if only speaking to other Kuwaitis, seems not only strange, but offensive. That description describes their stereotype of KAS students. Also, whereas ADM admits to a smoking problem, KAS reputedly suffers from alcohol and marijuana problems, again examples of "haram," forbidden, behaviors. Hence the Asil vision of "foreign schools" where this sort of thing happens and in decided contrast to the vision behind Al-Dharra (ADM 1, 1998). In such a school a Kuwaiti can become "de-cultured." Again, it does not matter, to a certain degree, if this perception accurately describes KAS or KBS.

Karen Al-Jinnah (2001), herself a member of a two-culture family, herself found the atmosphere at KAS too Western and departed after teaching at KAS for a solitary year: "I felt I didnít belong there because it was too ĎAmerican.í So I had a friend who was married to a Kuwaiti also, so I switched over....It was a better match."

In Al-Dharra, one sees a very different situation, a school specifically designed to preserve and celebrate a particularly Kuwaiti version of Arab culture. A combination of factors guarantee that not only will most foreigners stay out, but those who enter will enter a world in which Kuwaiti language and culture dominate.



F. Entering Into Al-Dharra: the Promise and the Price

Only three conditions allow entry into the Al-Dharra. First, a child may enter at KG-level after passing an entrance examination (ADM 5, 1998). Parents entering at that time make a genuine commitment, not only to English but to Arabic and more specifically to the Kuwait dialect. Many foreigners would not want to make that commitment. First, many Arabic speakers, such as Egyptians and the poorer Kuwaitis, will spend the vast majority of their life speaking in Arabic. Second, very few English-language families would want to make an investment in their children learning Arabic; in fact, the few English-first families that send their children to Al-Dharra have Arab fathers and English/American mothers.

A second situation (ADM 2, 1998) concerns those with brothers or sisters already enrolled. These families can enroll another child without that child undergoing an examination. Most families still opt to have their second or third child take the examination to see if the school believes the boy/girl can succeed. Particularly before the War (Al-Khansa, 2002) a lot of brothers and sisters came to the school.

A third situation involves enrolling a child at an older age. These children, also, have to undergo an examination (ADM 2, 1998). Admittance requires a passing score in at least 2 out of 3 subjects: math, English, and Arabic. Except in rare cases, only students enrolled at other international schools have even a reasonable chance of admission on the English portion of the test, and many of them fail. Invariably, public school students fail the English examination. International school students usually fail the Arabic examination.

Further, even if a student gains admission while failing either the English or Arabic examination, this can mean serious hardships ahead. Poor Arabic ability means not only struggling in Arabic class but also struggling in those classes taught in Arabic, one half to a third of the school day; the same holds true for those weak in English. This acts as a serious deterrent to later entry into the school. In reality, most children who graduate from Al-Dharra start in KG (kindergarten) or, at the latest, elementary school. Their whole school experience, then, revolves around Al-Dharra.

They enter a school that compares, in some ways, to Groton, St. Paulís and Exeter of a century ago, the gentleman's school of Kuwait. Therein, though, lies the catch: only those of the gentlemanly families can fully benefit from Al-Dharra. The years of ADM attendance will serve to reinforce, or at least maintain, the social contacts between a student and his distant cousins and peers, ties that will serve him in good stead in the work world.

Al-Dharra offers few such social possibilities for the non-Asil. Except in rare cases, the foreigner, or even the non-Asil, will not marry into these affluent families. Indeed, he or she only forms a peripheral part of the social life of the school, as explained later. The sole draw of Al-Dharra to the parents of this group comes from educational opportunity. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the non-Parliamentary students, including the foreigners and the Shia, typically constitute a majority of the academic high achievers despite forming a minority of the student body. Their only motives in enrolling in this expensive school lie in getting a good education, and so they get one. In fact, one finds almost a reverse correlation between academic achievement and degree of status, the subject of the next section.



G. The Onion Again

One way of looking at Al-Dharra's history consists in looking at the large amount of continuity in the student body "insiders," the dominant families, versus looking at the relatively discontinuous outsiders. One can trace an almost uninterrupted progression of the Asil, particularly the Parliamentary families, with the second generation of Al-Dharra students now starting to attend. The ebb and flow of students to and from specific families could undoubtedly form a thesis unto itself and probably forms the topic of conversation of many diwanniyahs and family gatherings. However, a central fact remains: the ebb and flow occurs mainly on the outside; on the inside one finds continuity.

Another big distinction between this and previous drawings lies in its apparent contradiction as a drawing for more than one person. If, indeed, each Arab conceives of himself in terms of his own social group, logically one would expect, for example, that a Palestinian drawing would NOT conceive of the Five Families as central. However, the following sections will show that, in fact, most members of the school community, certainly on the Arab side, tacitly accept, or rather concede, the placement of this group in the center of the school. Their very enrollment in the "Kunaie School," comes with this unadvertised price.

In fact, one can distinguish three other "tribes" that, in their own way, could have challenged the dominance of the founding families. To put this into perspective will help show the importance of the Central Families.

First, some members of the Al-Sabah family signed on at the very beginnings of Al-Dharra. Generally not the best of students, the Al-Sabah at times seemed destined to emerge as a rival tribe (Al-Jinnah, 2001) intent on claiming the center, an interesting parallel to the struggle between their grandparents and those of the Asil. One would expect, indeed, that as in government, the Al-Sabah would emerge in the center of the school. In this context, an anecdote from American Kuwait School (KAS) might show the importance of the Al-Sabah.

Recently (2001) a teacher at Al-Dharra, tutoring an Al-Sabah girl at KAS, told the story of how she graduated. In reviewing her transcript, the school counselor discovered she needed one more class to graduate. When she told her father this story, he immediately called the school. The school apologized for notifying the girl so late and agreed to let the girl pass without taking the class. The school did this after the father casually mentioned that if his daughter did not graduate, the class would have no Al-Sabah in the graduating class, a loaded hint. He spoke at the graduation.

At Al-Dharra, the founding board included only one Al-Sabah. She did not hold any ties to the other founding families, and early on a rivalry developed between the Al-Sabah and the Asil, at both the board and student level. As stated previously, the Asil tend to regard the Al-Sabah as their equals and peers, a ranking increasingly rejected by the Al-Sabah, most emphatically by their increasing propensity to either marry Bedouin, for political reasons, or other Al-Sabah. At Al-Dharra, one aspect of this rivalry took the form of constant fights between the Al-Sabah boys and the Asil, whom they constantly accused of "harassing" Al-Sabah girls (Al-Jinnah, 2001).

Eventually, the sole Al-Sabah Board Member got into an argument with the school owner, decamped, and took the Al-Sabah to KBS. More recently, dissatisfied with KBS, some of the Al-Sabah started to filter back along with their related families. However, they currently pose no challenge to the Parliamentary dominance of the school. More typically, they participate in Al-Sabah activities rather than school ones. Their return, then, seems to cede the school center to their rivals. For that reason, unlike the larger society, this drawing depicts the Al-Sabah as a subgroup of "fellow Asil," not the center.

Thus far the important Shia families merited surprisingly little discussion. Shia of the wealth of the Al-Souma, the Hanibehs, and the Persani certainly rival the Five Families. One could draw a smaller, but equally labyrinthine drawing of the inter-relatedness of the ADM Shia.

However, the Shia did not, and do not, rival the Five Families. The Shia include a disproportionately high number of top achievers, but they do not use Shia commonality as a rallying point. Hence they must appear as above, a sub-group of the Asil with a dividing line between them and the Sunni. Indeed in some of the AWSIT interviews, several Shia denied any points of division between them and the Sunni.

The Palestinians once provided a rival group, but that merits discussion in the following section. Thus far, this section described the center of the school, in the middle of which rests the Five Families, the Kunaie.

By putting the Asil, and particularly the Five Families, at the center of the drawing, this also calls attention to the fact that their parents also lie at the center of the school. In some cases, they actually helped found the school. In other cases, they knew very well the founder. Hence, this central group includes the parents, members of the board, and the founder, but not the teachers or administrators.



H. The Outer Circle: The Palestinians and Other Arabs

The further one gets from the center, the more discontinuity becomes a factor. The most important of these other groups, until the war, consisted of the Palestinians. At first glance, it may appear strange, even bizarre, that the Palestinians would enroll their children in a school dominated by a prominent social group who entertained and entertain considerable suspicion of them. Still, at one point, the Palestinians numbered almost 40% of the student body (Al-Khansa, 2002).

Undoubtedly, several factors drew the Palestinians to Al-Dharra. First, the uncertainty about the future of their homeland meant that many parents wanted to increase the places that they could go, and a bilingual education doubled their chances of having the correct language skills. Further, as Ghabra (1988) noted, Palestinians in Kuwait spared no expense in pursuit of a better education.

Finally, while a Palestinian could not directly use connections at Al-Dharra to further his aims, he could indirectly through meeting his possible future employers. Still, fitting in with the Kuwaitis came as a challenge to any group of foreigners (Al-Khansa, 2002):

Itís a challenge if youíre not Kuwaiti. If you are Kuwaiti, most of the time, thatís okay unless thereís some reason. Every once in awhile you have someone who is ostracized for some social blunder. They just have a hard time. But, for the most part, like I said, weíre about 80% related. So if youíve got a cousin, someoneís going to take care of you. Blood is thicker than water.

The presence of the Palestinians made the school truly bilingual but with the greater emphasis on English (Al-Jinnah, 2001; Al-Khansa, 2002). While the Palestinians speak Arabic and know the Kuwaiti dialect, Palestinian Levant Arabic differs markedly from that of the Gulf, so markedly that it became easier for students to speak in English. English became the language of the campus, just as the multiplicity of Indian languages made English the de facto language of the Indian schools.

The Palestinian students, in the pre-war era, put considerable pressure on the Kuwaiti students. In a continuation of the social challenge of the Palestinians, shown in chapter six, they presented an academic challenge (Al-Khansa, 2002):

They tended to be very appreciative of their education. Their parents usually had a very high education because they werenít going to automatically fall into a family business...They had to be "the best of the best" if they were non-Kuwaiti, so they worked very hard. They provided an atmosphere of competition, friendly competition, but they really stretched the kids we had.

Putting the Arabic groups together by nationality leads to the following diagram, which charts the presence of various student groups over time.

In a way, the Palestinians make an interesting transition between the inner circles and the outer circles. With the War, the number of Palestinian students dramatically declined as Palestinian families, other than those on the staff, generally left the school. Therefore, in terms of students, one can divide the schoolís existence into a pre-War, heavily Palestinian period, and a post-War, post-Palestinian period.

While the Palestinian students largely left the school as a result of the War, the school staff actually became more Palestinian. Staff members who lost their jobs in the public schools for political reasons turned to the private schools. Further, since ADM, like most private schools, simply closed during the occupation, one could hardly accuse returning Palestinian teachers of having "collaborated" by working for the Iraqis.

The Palestinian teachers, then, augmented by smaller numbers of Syrians, Lebanese, and Jordanians, occupy a peculiar position in the world of Al-Dharra. Their status as Arabs puts them closer to the center, as more accepted members of the Arab group. With their "hosts" they share values, beliefs, and, of course, religion. However, that does not make them insiders even to the same extent as the Shia or the Al-Sabah because they do not share the heritage and the family connections of those who outrank them socially and economically.

 

I. The Outer Circle: The Westerners

Oddly enough, the picture in terms of faculty does not, in any way, parallel that of the students, as the following drawing shows. Consider the discontinuity on the following chart, which shows the presence of adult educator groups at ADM over time.

Among the English-speaking staff, one can note two basic periods: pre-invasion and after. Before the invasion and immediately after, the preference tended towards hiring British nationals (Al-Jinnah, 2001). After the change of directors and direction in 1997, the bias shifted towards Americans and Canadians. According to Karen Al-Jinnah (2001), then a PE teacher at the school, the schoolís Western identity altered under a new British director:

He [the director] wanted to institute caps and ties, like a typical British school. He was the one that introduced the advisory program, only he had it "pastoral care"....Some of the grading [differed], like it didnít matter what they got first semester, you always mark them lower, and then youíre supposed to go back and change the grades, which we donít do in American grades.

Such moves did not sit well with the American teaching staff, which he gradually started to replace (Al-Jinnah, 2001):

Well, when we got in our classrooms, everyone did what they wanted. And when it came around time to order, the order would depend on whoís head of department at the time, or who wanted what. Sometimes weíd get British books, and sometimes weíd get American books in, and they were always fighting each other....[Some British teachers] had this attitude that the American system bastardizes the language. "They [the Americans] donít know how to teach English." So even the kids would say that.

When the school switched directors to an American, Mr. Newman, the bias shifted towards American hiring and practices. Thus, among those on the outside, one finds a struggle between the British and Americans with the Canadians usually acting as auxiliaries to their southern neighbors.

However, one can draw a greater contrast between the Westerner educators as a group and the Arabs, mostly Palestinians. While Westerners seldom stayed more than three years, Palestinians, once hired, stayed indefinitely. Indeed, in their positions as teachers of the Kuwaitis, the Palestinians assumed an importance as those charged with helping the Kuwaitis discover and preserve Kuwaiti culture (ADM 1, 1998), a role not assigned to the Westerners. If the Arab staff claimed importance as the transmitters of Kuwaiti identity, the Western staff held the responsibility for educating the students and preparing them for college in the West. Further, the formal power in the organization, as teachers and as director(s), often placed the Westerners in charge of the Kuwaitis and Palestinians.

Indeed, this sets the stage for attitudes on both sides. On the American side, the staff often seemed to arrive with the attitude: "Okay, Iím here. Itís time to change things."

On the Arabic side, the attitude sometimes seemed: "Ah, thereís another bunch of Americans trying to mess with things. Oh, well, they wonít be here very long anyway."

The Westerners' family status, as certain questions on the AGS in chapter twelve indicate, often seemed to add to the Kuwaitis sense of them as outsiders. Since American, British, and Canadian teachers could not enroll their own children in the school, due to their childrenís lack of knowledge of Arabic, the school hired Western teachers without dependents. This meant sometimes older people but often bachelors and maidens. Their family status put the Westerners at two removes from the Kuwaitis. While the Palestinians did not relate by family to the Kuwaitis, at least they had a family. The Westerners seemingly neither valued nor possessed a family, a very strange situation in a school essentially organized around family.

To show, again, the importance of family to the Kuwaitis, consider the case of one Australian, female teacher who married a non-Asil Kuwaiti. The couple planned, after saving enough money working in Kuwait, to move to Australia and settle. Her Kuwaiti husbandís parents did not readily accept this idea. It took her almost two years to convince them and only then on the promise of returning every vacation. When she became pregnant, this only prolonged the departure. In total, it took two years to convince the Kuwaiti parents to part with their son and another year to part with their granddaughter.

In this respect, the Westernersí family-free status curiously parallels the status of the others of the furthermost circle, the guards and the maids. While these workers actually possess a family, they left that family behind to work in Kuwait. From the point of view of this concept of centrality, then, the Westerners, like the maids and guards, take their place outside the heart of the school as workers and servants.



K. The Impact of the War

This study needs to take another brief look at The Gulf War. The War served not to "wash away" the past and to change any of the conclusions above, but to intensify them. In this context, note that Kuwaitis always use the phrase "The War" to refer to the Gulf War, and that attests to its importance as an event in their lives and that of their country.

The Gulf War of 1991 drew the Kuwaitis closer together during its duration but further apart after. During the War, all sides and political persuasions agreed as to a common goal: independence. As one Kuwaiti observed (in Tetreault, 1993):

When Saddam Hussein came in, he treated us equally. He did not kill Shia or Sunni: he killed Kuwaitis. He did not kill workers or merchants: he killed Kuwaitis. He did not kill men or women: he killed Kuwaitis. (p. 275)

The states of the Gulf had long enjoyed a higher stability and an easier interaction with the states of the West than the Arab Levant states (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine). This probably followed more from historical accident than anything else. While the French and British saw an economic advantage to conquering Iraq and the Levant and controlling Iran, they found little of worth in the Gulf States. By the time that they found something of worth, oil, the era of colonialism had ended. As a result, Gulf citizens felt free to pick and choose what to take from Western culture and maintained an attitude of presumed equality with the West. As F. Ajami (1990/1991) notes:

It was simpler world among the Arabs of the peninsula and the Gulf. Few thought that the world of princes and merchants could be remade. Authority was paternalistic, but ruler and ruled lived in a social and political world held together by bonds that men generally did not break. (p. 11)

The Iraqi invasion shattered several myths that held this world together. First, it demonstrated that the rich oil states could not automatically expect to enjoy their riches without challenge. Second, it proved, though the many turns in the Lebanese Civil War already implied this, that Arab states would fight one another. Finally, it proved that the Gulf States could not just "pick and choose" when to have the West intervene in local affairs. In this emergency, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia needed Western help and paid heavily to get it.

Saddamís Iraqi army invaded Kuwait in August when temperatures often surpass 50 degrees Celsius. Richer Kuwaitis choose this time to travel to Europe and the United States. Most of the Asil simply never came back until after Saddam's removal. They enrolled their students in schools in the US, UK, Egypt, etc. (Dodge, 1991). They fought the War from a political front: urging other nations to help them free Kuwait. Further, they faced the worry as to what would happen to their businesses and their funds during their absence.

Reason to flee they had, for Saddam's rule proved extremely brutal (Economist 319, 1991) during the short period of occupation. The following examples come from Readerís Digest, eyewitnesses, but eyewitness accounts related directly to this author verify that similar things happened (Bennet and Flick, 1990):

A Jordanian girl out grocery shopping was raped by five Iraqi solders, then dumped on a street corner. A father was held at gun point and forced to watch the rape of his four daughters. A young woman was held at the Sabah Al-Salem police station and repeatedly assaulted over the following weeks....

Torture was routine. After many Kuwaitis pledged not to shave until they were free, the Iraqi occupiers began plucking out facial hair with pliers....Doorstep executions appeared to be an Iraqi standard...[The Iraqis] would take a prisoner to his home, call everyone outside, and then shoot him in the head right in front of his family....

Many killings were brutally capricious. A man waiting for bread at a bakery complained to one of Saddam's Republican Guards "You have ruined our lives." He was shot on the spot....Soon bodies were piling up, waiting for identification. Some were stored in hospital refrigerators, others buried in mass graves, 30 and 40 at a time. At one cemetery, soldiers demanded 100 Iraqi dinar before families could bury a loved one. (p. 87)

Nor did the Iraqis exercise their brutality on the Kuwaitis alone, though they seemed to enjoy this the most. On one occasion, a Pakistani shopkeeper told this author that he found a group of a dozen Iraqi soldiers about to rape a Sri Lankan girl. He said to them: "You should be ashamed of yourselves. Youíre Muslims. We donít treat women that way." When he started to leave, the Iraqi commanding officer ordered him to stay. The Iraqis did not kill the Pakistani but forced him to watch as they brutalized the helpless girl.

Under the circumstances, of course, many Kuwaitis caught in the country at the time of invasion simply fled, a relatively easy option with Saudi Arabia a mere hour's drive from any point in Kuwait. Ajami estimates (1990/1991) that, "Somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 Kuwaitis fled into Saudi Arabia. They came bearing tales of grief and violation" (p. 14).

Poorer Kuwaitis, however, had less of a chance to flee. They had stayed in Kuwait to work during the summer (Al-Khansa, 2002). They faced an extended period of Saddam's presence, with random killings, systematic intimidation, and discrimination. Some actively aided the underground.

When Saddamís troops left, and the Americans liberated the country, the Iraqis left behind scars in the society. Foremost, the Kuwaitis blamed the Palestinians, as explained in chapter six. However, they also spread the blame among themselves (Metz, 1994): "The [post-occupation] population is divided psychologically between those who experienced the direct horror of the Iraqi occupation and survived and those who spent the war abroad" (p. 94).

The government, led by the Al-Sabah, themselves exiles during the War, ran a series of television shows (Tetreault, 1993) which portrayed the Kuwaitis who remained as essentially passive. Further, the government took steps to simply purchase loyalty (Metz, 1994):

Some of the largest domestic postwar government expenditures have gone directly to Kuwaiti households. The government decided to pay government employees their wages for the period of the occupation ....[It decided to] write off about $1.2 billion in consumer loans. (pp. 93-94)

If the official accounts thereafter depicted non-fleeing Kuwaitis as hapless victims, this portrayal conflicted considerably with the memories of those left behind. They maintained they fought a guerrilla war against the Iraqis. Further, their stories inevitably show Kuwaitis taking care of their own, including their own foreign workers, who certainly suffered as much as the Kuwaitis themselves (Metz, 1994, p. 100). Foreign observers document the role of this opposition in helping Kuwaitis and opposing the invaders (Kelly, 1991):

By all accounts the resistance delivered the goods, at least to fellow Kuwaitis. An underground banking system kept hundreds of millions of Kuwaiti and Iraqi dinars in circulation and provided money on a regular basis for those Kuwaitis who had not fled the country. A food distribution network provided ample supplies of canned goods and other basics. Volunteers picked up the garbage and policed neighborhoods. (p. 24)

As one of those remaining behind, Nader Marafi, a prominent Asil businessman, commented (in Kelley, 1991):

We proved during the occupation that Kuwaitis are not ashamed of sweeping streets, collecting garbage, working in gas stations, so what the government should do is supplement wages in the private sector for people like garbage collectors, and then you will see lots of Kuwaitis doing this. (p. 24)

This never happened. Despite the governmentís cutting the wages paid to foreigners, foreigners soon returned to fill the low-paying jobs, including street-sweeping. Private firms continued to fill all but their highest ranks with foreigners who worked cheaper and harder than Kuwaitis (Al-Qudsi, 1989). Egyptians and, in some fields, Indians, replaced the Palestinians.

In fact, the War served to strengthen the "Asilness" of Al-Dharra. First, since relatively few of the Asil directly experienced the war, they fell generally into one category, the "comfortable exiles" who spent their time in Europe or the United States (Al-Khansa, 2002). Their hardships included such problems as not having access to their Kuwaiti wealth, the damages done to their companies, and entering their children in foreign schools. In their mind, then, their not returning showed non-collaboration, refusing to "buckle down to Saddam" by returning.

Far from the scene of the war or much first-hand knowledge of events, some easily believed that the Palestinians betrayed them. With the Palestiniansí departure, ADM became an even more Kuwaiti school. If anything, power shifted more towards the center, accelerated by the withdrawal of the high-achieving, hard-working, Asil-rivaling, English-speaking, Palestinian students (Al-Jinnah, 2001).

During the war, though in their zeal to loot the Iraqis even stole school yearbooks, the school remained in relatively good condition. Physically, the school remained intact because Abu Gudal, a business office employee of Iraqi birth, held sufficient wastah with the Iraqis to make sure that no one destroyed or looted the school (Al-Jinnah, 2001). The process of re-opening ADM served (Al-Jinnah, 2001) to strengthen the bonds between the Five families and those who returned with them. Hence, Al-Dharra Madressor re-opened, as this chapter began, the "Kunaie School," the expression of a particular vision in all its ambiguity.

Mentally, however, the War left scars, particularly psychological ones. Jan Al-Khansa, a school counselor and trained clinical psychologist, notes (2002):

There was a lot of anger, anger at home. At home, kids would hear slams against other Arab nations who were not supportive enough; they would hear slams against Iraqis, the labor force. There was a lot of anger at what happened. And maybe it was not directed at specific individuals, but just a general anger.

She added, regarding both the schools and society (2002):

It was very different....When we came back, it was like, business as usual. We started rubbing to get the smoke stains [from the fires] off our houses, and businesses started opening up, and there was never any grieving time.

When school reconvened, it did so without the substantial non-Arab, primarily Palestinian, minorities. Interestingly, when asked to discuss the effect of the War on the school, Al-Jinnah (2001) saw a change in mix from a "salad bowl" of nationalities with a culture based more on achievement to an "onion" with a greater emphasis on relationship.

For the staff, however, she maintained that it always remained a "salad bowl," with little mixing.



L. Ceremonies at ADM

In order to the complete this section, this analysis will now turn to several events that seem to particularly identify BBS as an Asil Kuwait School:

These events happen in this order during the calendar year, so it makes sense to describe in this order as well. First, most schools in Kuwait hold an International Day to coincide with the weekend of National Day, which celebrates the freeing of Kuwait.

Here, on the basis of the authorís readings of the Kuwait Times Junior Section (January, 1998-2001), one can differentiate the festivals a bit. In most of the Indian schools, festivals revolved around national holidays and culture, i.e., serving to tighten the bonds between the overseas community and a distant homeland that students had often never seen. In contrast, the International Days of most of the American and British schools featured a real celebration of many nationalities, i.e., a fairly even-handed celebration, befitting schools with multiple national and sub-national populations.

In contrast, at Al-Dharra, International Days served more complex purposes. Most homerooms chose a country to celebrate with the very important exception that the senior class, as a group, always represented Kuwait. Given their greater resources invariably they presented the biggest and best show. In that way, International Day reinforced Kuwaiti heritage and, in that respect served the function offered in ADM 1 (1998), of preserving and enhancing Kuwaiti identity. In interesting contrast, the United States and the United Kingdom, if presented, invariably fell to middle school students. The senior homeroomís performance included such aspects as presenting traditional Kuwaiti dance and music, often with no expense spared.

A side topic regarding this same subject concerns the other nationalities presented. While invariably some of the middle and high school classes simply picked interesting countries, such as the homeroom that picked Japan so they could buy matching kimonos, often other factors played into country selection. A number of expatriate Arab teachers picked their own country for their middle school students, and others seemed consciously to select other Arab nations. However, each celebration always included India, and the homeroom selecting dressed its girls in saris in which they performed an Indian dance. In fact, the maids at home spent literally hours making their pseudo-daughters as presentable as possible. In contrast, though, no one ever selected the Philippines or Egypt, seeing these countries as low status.

In this context, again, one must mention the superb presentation of Palestine by the eleventh graders two years ago. That homeroom, an honorsí homeroom, included the top students in the school. This reflects, again, a partial rehabilitation of Palestine in the eyes of the community and, of course, a chance for the homeroom teacher of that class, a Palestinian, to share pride in his country.

Thus, in a way, International Day said a lot more about the Asil themselves than any set of vaguely international values. They considered Kuwait the most important. They granted some other Arab countries respect. The treatment of India depended heavily upon the maternal relationship between maids and female students. The Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Egypt, which students viewed as low-status, received short shrift.

This leads into the somewhat related topic of Traditional Night. For Traditional Night, boys wore their dishdasha, a long, dress-like garment that Kuwaiti adult men wear daily. Girls, on the other hand, needed to wear long, traditional dresses, which cover nearly everything. In reality, Kuwaiti women once also wore the "dharra," a special mesh-like covering over their dress. It bears mention, here, that though other Arab countries wear similar clothing, such as the Egyptians who wear the same robes and dresses, a person can tell the traditional clothes of another Arab as instantly as one can distinguish his Arabic.

Longva commented in her book (1997) about the whole subject of traditional Kuwaiti dress as a symbol to outsiders of Kuwaitiness. The situation to the Kuwaiti students, and the other non-Kuwaiti 12%, remains more complicated. For boys, the purchase of a dishdasha did not really constitute much of a hardship. Literally hundreds of shops in Kuwait make them, perhaps one whole neighborhood in downtown Kuwait. Still, on Traditional Night, the foreigner, especially, faced a dilemma. Wearing a dishdasha meant "playing Kuwaiti" as Longva indicates in a similar incident (Longva, 1997).

For girls, sometimes the choice seemed harder. One did not simply go out casually and buy a traditionally Kuwaiti womanís dress. In most instances, this involved consultations with parents, even grandparents, who knew more about such things. Nor did the girlsí dresses function as casual wear; hence the intention of the person in buying it remained very clear. Fewer of the foreign girls made this choice, so that a dance might include three times as many boys as girls. Finally, the Student Council softened the rules to allow more freedom of dress at these events, and more girls attended. Traditional nights, then, also served as a celebration of Kuwaitiness. By nationality, of course, this included 88% of the school.

Many private schools hold carnivals; in fact, this author once proposed that all of the private schools sit down and arrange a schedule together. This speaks to an important fact: students from different schools attend different carnivals, and public school students attend the private school carnivals, typically en masse. This helped all of the private schools move toward their common goal of their carnival: raising money. However, as indicated above, school carnivals served a second function, which speaks to the relative conservatism of Arab society in general and Kuwaiti society in particular, the rare chance to see the opposite gender in an accepted, "safe" environment.

More to the point here, ADMís carnival functions as a kind of "family reunion." While teachers worked out of necessity, high school students volunteered to work the carnival. Further, past students returned to visit during the carnival, and almost every family made at least one visit, helped by the family prices offered to them. Other carnivals in Kuwait seemed decidedly slanted towards making money. None of them involved the schoolís PTA to the extent of ADMís, which, in fact, made it the priority project for the year. The importance of this became perhaps most apparent two years ago when a scheduling conflict led to the carnival occurring on the first day of the senior trip. The senior class president said: "This is our last year, and our last carnival. We want to help. They have to change the day somehow."

When the carnival date remained unchanged, seniors became so bitter they encouraged others not to attend. This constituted one of the few real "fights" within the community; notably the PTA president did not come from inside the Five Families.

A final ceremony worthy of note involves graduation. At the typical American high school, those attending graduation either know the graduates or relate to them. Only the rarest of American students would attend a graduation not of his own class, and certainly fewer parents would attend such a ceremony.

At an ADM graduation, however, every past graduate present in Kuwait typically came for the event. In addition, the entire, extended family, i.e., nuclear family and kindred group, attended as well. Hence, each graduation tended to get bigger than the previous one though, of course, part of this stemmed from the rising size of the graduating classes (25, 27, 46, 65). These numbers, though, do not add up quite as high as one might imagine because in many cases graduates, family, and friends coincided. In addition to this, a majority of middle school students and nearly all high school students watched the graduation as well. Again, while part of this attests to relatedness, part of it just comes from a feeling of community and commonality.

To make some comparison, when SHS (details provided in chapter fourteen) graduated a class of 35, the attending audience, including teachers, numbered about 150. In contrast, when ADM graduated a class of 45, the event filled the entire ballroom of a major hotel with well over 600 in total attendance. One can make a comparison to a graduation at this authorís high school (HFHS) which generated total attendance of 1000 for 330 graduates. Even in East Los Angeles, a very family-oriented community, a graduation class for TJHS (referred to in chapter fourteen) of 1000 students only drew an audience of 6000.

In distinct contrast, one must note that the school graduations of school as KBS, BSK, KAS, and AIS, albeit large at the high school level, tended to draw out fewer persons than ADM.

Nor can one stop at the numbers coming, but one must look a bit at the motivation. One particular student asked if this author meant to go to the graduation. To which he answered, "I must. I sure wouldnít go otherwise." To which the student responded: "Why? You see everyone at graduation."

Indeed, he spoke the truth. Even students who dropped out of Al-Dharra came to the graduation as did friends of the graduates from other schools. The ritual, then, functioned as an affirmation, not only of the graduates themselves, but of Al-Dharra, the idea and the community.

In general, then, the four rituals, above, particularly distinguish Al-Dharra as Al-Dharra and Al-Dharra as emphasizing the Arab side of its identity. International Day served to establish Al-Dharra as an international school, but one in which clearly one tradition deserved more respect and attention. It also served to allow the celebration, within limits, of other nationalities present within Al-Dharra. The traditional nights further helped define Kuwaitiness. While by no means intended as exclusionary, traditional nights tended to encourage other nationalities to find their inclusion through acquired Kuwaitiness. In a way, then, both these rituals served to sharpen the identity of Al-Dharra as particularly Kuwaiti.

In contrast, the last two events serve an inclusionary function, but within the "family" context of Al-Dharra. Everyone from the community attended both the Carnival and the graduation. Hence the events served as family reunions, even as the previous two rituals defined the identity of the family.

As a final comment observe that the Class of 1990 never held a graduation due to the war. As a result, Noor, the school owner, organized a special ceremony at the graduation of 2001 at which the director presented them with diplomas and she, herself, received her own, long-delayed Al-Dharra Madressor diploma. Except for the conspicuously absent Palestinian students, nearly every Kuwaiti called appeared on stage to receive a diploma, truly a family occasion.



M. Conclusion

This ends the first part of this dissertation. Previous chapters detailed a particular model of Arab society based on the values of tribalism. In tracing the history of Kuwait, it showed how one particular tribe, the Asil, developed as an important and wealthy tribal group with success in business and influence in government.

Al-Dharra Madressor expresses its particular vision of an ideal school one in which Western and Arab worlds would meet for the betterment of students. On the one hand, the nature of the school served largely to exclude or limit the influence of other groups, especially foreigners, about whom the Asil registered some ambivalence. On the other, it included a particularly high percentage of Kuwaitis who would speak and act Kuwaiti. Thus, ADM could easily have become an exclusive Arab-language, Kuwaiti school, a club for the rich and affluent of Kuwait.

However, the schoolís mission seeks more than this. The school hired Westerners charged not only with teaching English but with preparing students to enter Western society and understand and interact with it. It also hired Palestinians and other Arab teachers, paradoxically charged with teaching the Asil to become Kuwaiti and learning to read and write in Arabic. In a single day, students would learn to move from one world to the other, from one language to another, from one culture to another, with the simple ringing of a school bell. From their comfortable position in a Kuwaiti school, students, the founder hoped, could truly become not only bilingual but able to function in two societies, Arab and Kuwaiti.

On this goal, further, the community largely agreed. In fact, the parents of the students, who themselves constantly dealt with the West and Arab world through their businesses, saw the obvious benefits of this as well as the security of enrolling their children with their friends and, usually, family. Thus, ADM promised to bring students "the best of both worlds."




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