History of De La Salle - Amman
The foundation of the school in Amman was initiated by the Alumni of De la Salle schools in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Haifa who had to flee from the advance of the Israeli occupying in Palestine in 1948 and found home in Amman. They asked the Brothers of Christian Schools who have taught them to help open a school for their children.
Bro. Felix, director of the school in Jerusalem, went to Amman to meet Mgr. Nehmeh Sim'an and found out the possibilities of starting a school.
Just for fun, the day before he left, Bro. Felix met me and my brother and said: "Would you like to come with me to Amman? As our father was not far, we told him to talk to our father. "With you I have no problem" our father said, so Anthony Alonzo (age 12) and his brother William (age 10) were at the first meeting for the foundation of the school in Amman.
The Brothers studied the situation and did the necessary advance with the government and King Abdallah 1 encouraged them. An arrangement was done for a meeting with His majesty. Mgr. Nenmeh Sima'an, Brother Zacharias, who was the assistant of the Superior General and Bro. Felix, director of Jerusalem were admitted to the palace. Bro. Zacharias spoke so well about the project that the King told him "If I were your student, I would speak French fluently in three days". His majesty's encouragement helped to obtain the permit document for opening the school on 16 August 1950 under the name of College de la Salle. On the 19th of this month, the Brothers arrived to Amman and started registering students. One hundred students were registered by the 14th of October, the day of the opening of the school.
The Brothers rented a house in 1950 on Jabal Amman to start with, (actually it is the school of the Greek Catholic near the first circle). As the number of students started growing, the Brothers bought a piece of land outside Amman, which became later Jabal Al-Hussein, and built a school which started functioning on 7/10/1953. The director was Bro. Marcel Pradels and the two others were Bro. Adrien jean and François Vital. Later in 1952 came Bros. Edmond Hermes, Basile Marcel and Felix Marie.
After two years, the school had become too small and they had to find a larger location so as to build a proper school with enough space for games and sport. The location that Mgr. Assaf had found was outside Amman, but the Brothers decided to build the school and the first stone was laid on the 2nd may 1953 just when King Hussein became the King of Jordan.
Another side story. The Brothers wanted to buy a big piece of land but the minister's office could not understand that a foot-ball pitch was necessary for a school. While the director was arguing to convince the employees, a man came in and said:" there is an English man who is here, let us ask him. The English man told them "when we look for a school in England, the first question we ask is to see the number of foot-ball pitches, the rest is secondary" So our director obtained what he wanted.
The plan was laid by the architect Abu-Souan and the engineer-contractor was Tawfic Marar. On the 15th of May, feast of de la Salle, the Brothers paid a visit to His majesty king Hussein, who congratulated them on their project. The benediction of the school was done on the 20th of May and classes started on the 10th of October 1953 with 451 students.
This was the beginning of this new campus on Jabal Al-Hussein. Many people rushed to this locality because of the school, and buildings started growing and Jabal Al-Hussein became quickly a residential area. The school continued to grow and extra classes and halls became necessary. In 1956, a two story wing was built. The top story was at the same level with the football pitch and consisted of 4 classes and an office and the lower part was at the same level with the lower playground and consisted of a hall and a small shop where the students could buy sandwiches and sweets.
The custom in our schools was to have a mass every morning, so a space in the building was reserved for this purpose and became a chapel. Even in the small house which we had in Jabal Amman, we had a room transformed into a chapel. Therefore, this chapel was used for the daily mass of the students and on Sundays, as there were not many churches at that time. We used to send our buses to collect all those who desired to attend mass. Parents of the neighborhood profited also and used to come for mass on Sundays and feast days. They thought also that it was time to have a larger chapel. The priests from the Latin and the Greek Catholic vicariates used to come to celebrate the Sunday mass and the students' masses.
The presidents of the school throughout the years were Brothers: Br. Marcel Pradels from 1950 to 1958 (French) Bro. Honoré Ayoub (Syrian) from 1958 to 1968, Bro. Edmond Ma'louf (Lebanese) from 1968 to 1973, Bro. François Khalil Hanna (Palestinian) from 1973 to 1976, Bro. Gerard Cannon (English) 1976 to 1979, Bro. Rafael Gonzalez (Spanish) 1979 to 1986, Bro. Noel Sakr (Lebanese) 1986 to 1996, Bro. Emile Akiki (Lebanese) 1996 to 2007, Bro. Rafael Gonzalez (Spanish) 2007 to 2009. At that time, the Institute had started a partnership with lay people all over the world and most of our schools in the Distirct of the Proche Orient were run by lay people. Amman was to follow suit, and Mr Gabi Ghazzawi was appointed as the first lay president of College De La Salle Amman. Mr. Ghazzawi, a devout Catholic and a graduate of De La Salle College Amman is also the current president of the college.
During this time, every Principal tried to update the school by constructing new buildings, laboratories, halls, chapel, libraries and other facilities. At the same time, work was done to promote learning and learning processes to adapt itself with the modernization of the culture.
The first graduation was on the first of June 1958. The Prime Minister Samir Al-Rifai distributed the diplomas and one of the graduates was his son Abdallah. The Military Band accompanied the parade and sport presentation. Even a small French operetta was presented that day.
While the school was growing, Jabal Al-Hussein was also growing and needed more reorganizing for the traffic. A good piece of land, adjacent to our school, became available and though it was necessary for the growing of the school, the Institute was not able to acquire it sooner than others because of financial problems, so Mr. Tewfic Marar offered to advance the necessary sum to buy this piece of land in 1962. Bro. Honoré who was the director, made a plan to build on this land a multipurpose building on top of which would be built a beautiful chapel to cater for all the students for the daily morning mass.
During the Summer of 1964, the architect Simaan Shamieh, the engineer Emile Ghazzawi and the contractor Michel Kassir, all three former students of our schools in Palestine, started the building and the first stone of the chapel was blessed by Mgr. Zanini Apostolic Delegate on the 4th of November 1964.
While we were building, the Parish of Zerka was also growing and needed a bigger church. The Latin Patriarchate asked some German engineers to come to their help. Arriving to Amman, they asked if there were some projects going on. Therefore, they came to see the engineering work of our hall and chapel. When they saw the maps and the careful work, they told the Patriarch:" If you have so good professionals, you do not need us." So the hall of Zerka and the chapel were built on our plans, with small changes because of the nature of the land, and the same engineers.
The work in our chapel continued slowly because the internal decor which was mainly done by Bro. Antoine Hatem and the windows designed by the director Honore, himself and executed by Fr. Wilibrote, a Trapist father from Latroun monastery, took lots of time and money. Finally on the first of April 1967, his Beatitude the Patriarch Mgr. Alberto Gory blessed the chapel under the name of St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle, Founder saint of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
When the secondary students knew that the blessing was about to come and saw that the workers would have no time to finish the cleaning of the grounds and chapel, they offered themselves to do the work; Christians and Muslems went to the task and cleaned everything. When the director thanked them, they said:"This is our school and we are proud of it."
When Bro. Edmond Elie Ma'louf became director in 1968, he completed the work by transforming the rest of this land into basketball pitches; by this work, he encouraged sports and especially basketball and our students gained lots of cups and medals and became the champions of Jordan.
During his directory, Bro. Edmond Elie Ma'louf encouraged also music. He profited of the opening of the first conservatory of Music in Amman to encourage students to learn instrumental music. With the encouragement of the parents, a hundred students were registered at the conservatory which was opened by Dr. Youssef Khasho, one of our former students of Jerusalem. He encouraged also the small boy scout bugle group to become the first student orchestra in Amman; with the help of Mr. Khasho and Mr. Karim Bawab who was a former student of Amman school and an engineering student, this little orchestra, succeeded in offering musical representations much appreciated by parents. In 1969, they were able to perform in the new palace of sport and fill the 2000 sitting places.
During his time as director of the school and community, he accepted to open a Juniorate in 1970 for those who wanted to become Brothers. The result of our tour of the villages to inform people and parish priests was 12 junior novices from the preparatory classes. Bro. Edmond Ma'louf prepared a small wing for them and took care of them as well as the Brothers of the community and he designed Brother Albert Alonzo responsible for them. When bro. Albert was moved to Jerusalem, it was Brother Miguel Quecan who took the charge.
In 1973, Bro. Francois Khalil Hanna became director. He thought of a more relaxing place for the students, for this reason, he sold an unused portion of the land which was in the valley, so as to build a third flour for the Brothers. This permitted him to transform the premises of the Brothers into classes and install the central heating in the school.
In 1976, Bro. Gerard Cannon became director. Bro. Gerard has already been working in the school since 1960 as an English teacher and inspector of the secondary classes. He has also renewed the financial system in the school.
In 1979, Bro. Rafael Gonzalez was asked to become director. Bro Rafael was one of the founders of this house in 1953 and served it till 1962. In his period, he found the necessity of building a special wing for the secondary classes. Our engineer and former student Karim Bawab was trying to work with a new method of building called (prestressed and precast structure) and with another engineer former student Nadim Gharghour proposed this method to build the secondary wing. The work was started and the surveying engineer, Souheil Stephan was also an alumnus of this same school. Bro. Rafael took also the opportunity to bring back a certain discipline which was a bit lost because of the war situation and the unrest in the country.
In 1986, he was replaced by Bro. Noël Sakr who completed his work and renewed the theatre lighting and stage to encourage theatrical education. He also renewed the laboratories so as to be ready for the GCE practical exams. As a teacher of Arabic, he gave a new trend to the Arabic language and he himself coordinated this language.
In 1996, Bro Emile Akiki came from the Lebanon to replace him. Bro. Emile was a poet and a musician, at the same time, he was very gentle but firm. He bought a piece of land some 30Km. away from the city to become a place for relaxation and nature study for the students.
He renewed the work of art and music and prepared the golden jubilee of the school. He did not neglect the foundations of the old building which needed a serious repair. He also built a wing which was planned in 1973 but could not be done because of financial difficulties. As a man who loves agriculture, Bro Emile made a beautiful garden out of the land bought by Bro. Noël and called it "La Salle Garden". Bro. Julio continues to take care of this garden.
In 2007, Bro. Rafael came back and had to prepare two important things. The first thing was, to prepare a lay successor as director. Knowing the country, the schools and teachers, because of his long time in Amman, he found the adequate person to be the first lay director in the person of Mr. Gabi Ghazzawi. His second important work was to build a Kinder Garten which will permit the registration of girls later in the school. The Ministry of Education had a law which didn't allow schools to change from a boy's to a mixed school, so they started a mixed kindergarten to be considered as a new school.
When children moved to a new section, they needed a new registration.
In 2009, Mr. Gabi Ghazzawi was appointed first lay director of the school. Mr. Ghazzawi was a former student of this school and has a long experience in teaching, principally English, and a good experience in administration.
Mr. Gabi started working fast so as to keep the high standard of the school and to apply all the innovations in the field of education. Some of his achievements were the construction of the new mixed Kindergarten in 2009 and the nursery in 2014. His goal was introducing several education programs into the school; such as IB,TKT-Clil, IG, CP, Sat2. The school needed also structures such as new bathrooms for the girls, a separate building for the nursery on top of which new classes, offices and meeting rooms were built and a larger space with new laboratories for the secondary classes, in addition to the use of the new solar energy system which contributed to the reduction of the electricity bill.
All this was done so as to ensure the best education to our students and prepare men and women who will make a difference and serve their country as good leaders should do.