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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: School in Jaffa

Looking Back

Detail from Market at Jaffa, by Gustav Bauernfeind, painted in 1877. Public domain
Detail from Market at Jaffa, by Gustav Bauernfeind, painted in 1877. Public domain

Friday June 13 2014

Looking Back: A Visit to Miss Walker Arnott's School in Jaffa

Published in June 1879

[Miss Walker Arnott went to the East for health. While in Jaffa (the ancient Joppa) she was much interested in some of the children, and began to teach them. From these small beginnings her undertaking has grown until it has assumed the form of which we read in the communication (by her sister) now laid before our readers.]

MY friends at home all ask how I like Jaffa. At this season I like it very much. In the house it is always cool and pleasant. Out of doors it is too hot in the middle of the day, like August at home; but after four o’clock, when we go out for a walk or ride, it is very cool and pleasant. The town looks quite picturesque, built on a rock, and rising to a point in the centre; the housing rising behind each other like steps. It looks better, however, from the outside, and I should be glad never to go through the streets, which are about 10 feet wide. The filth of these narrow streets is something to be seen before it could be realised. The dirtiest wynds of the Cowgate are clean in comparison. This house is outside the old wall. From the front we have the advantage of the sea view; from the back, for miles round you see the most beautiful orange groves interspersed here and there with the graceful date palms and bananas.

THE SCHOOL – I like the arrangements exceedingly. You enter the house by the large hall, which takes the place of the open court in native houses. From this hall you pass on into this large dining-room, and then into the kitchen. All round this hall are the different class-rooms opening from it, with windows also into the hall. Upstairs the plan is the same. In the four corners of the house are the ladies’ bedrooms. The Upper Hall is surrounded with wardrobes and cupboards. All round, and opening off it, are the dormitories, each under the charge of a native teacher or pupil-teacher.

THE GIRLS - There are about 60 girls, and some of them, I regret to say, are still unpaid for.  The five 1st class girls are working very hard with a master this winter. They teach the little children during the forenoon, and two of them, Mary and Marigho, have the whole charge of the outside schoolroom, where there are from 50 to 60 day scholars. When the school work is over at four o’clock, these girls have their master, and they have to work hard all evening preparing their lessons. My sister hopes they will make good teachers next year.

THE WOMEN – I must tell you now something of the work going on out here amongst the women. It began last year when my sister was giving relief to the starving, and invited the women to a meeting on Sunday afternoons. My sister and Miss Mangan both felt they could not go on giving away money and flour as they had done. It hindered the working of the school, besides encouraging idleness, if continued for any length of time. So when the school resumed in October, Miss M., having had a good deal of money sent to her for relief of the distress, resolved to spend it in a more beneficient way. She took a small house in the town, and invited the very poor to come twice a week for a Sewing Class or Mothers’ Meeting. She pays each woman ½ bishalik (hd.) for her two hours’ work, and when she has finished an article of clothing she can buy it back, if she likes, at less than cost price. Miss M. hoped at first to have about 50 women, but she has seldom less than 95. She reads to them from the Bible whilst they are working for the two hours; but on Fridays she talks to them, and has a regular mission meeting.

THE MEDICAL MISSION – Last October Miss M. engaged the services of a very clever doctor from Beyrout. He was wishing to settle here, so she offered him this post at £25 a year, and thus has begun at last a Jaffa Medical Mission. Since it was started, about 1000 cases have been entered in the book. There is about an average of 60 cases each day, and it is very hard work, as the scenes are often most harrowing. When they are unable to come to the Mission House, Miss M. visits them in their houses, and she has great hopes that more than one of these sufferers has been led to seek the great Physician, and are resting alone in Him. Miss M. feels, however, she cannot go on with this work without another lady or nurse to help her, and also more funds. She had money sent her to start it, but the medicines are nearly exhausted, and she expects to be home in June to try and get money to put it on a more permanent footing, and, if possible, start a small hospital. The whole of this part of the work has grown so rapidly and unexpectedly, and has been so blessed, that I cannot believe God will permit it to fall to the ground.


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