Bonn. The King Fahad Academy in Bad Godesberg will be closed at the end of the school year. Politicians are discussing how the building can be used in the future.
The König-Fahad-Akademie (King Fahad Academy) in Lannesdorf, established in 1995, will be shut down at the end of the 2016/17 school year. Reports from a Berlin newspaper, “Tagespiegel” also say construction on another King Fahad Academy in Berlin-Charlottenburg will be stopped. The school in Bonn has 30 teachers and 150 Arabic-speaking students, mainly children of medical patients, diplomats and business people from Arab countries. Currently on break, the school will open for the school year on September 19.
Officially, Saudi diplomats say the decision is part of the reform process to restructure the economy and society in Saudi Arabia. An aim of the government is that Saudi youth get the best possible education. Because Germany is viewed as having “one of the best education systems worldwide”, the Saudi government sees no further need for a Saudi sponsored school in Germany. It can also be that the financial crisis in Saudi Arabia may have contributed to the decision to close the school, or friction at the level of school directors.
In 2003, the Academy made headlines due to alleged Islamic activities. It was thought to be a magnet for radical Islamists across Germany, including Al Qaeda sympathists. At the time, a few teachers there were accused of promoting radical Islam. The district government then determined that many of the students did not have permission to be at the school because they were permanent residents of Bonn. Enrollment was only allowed for those temporarily living in Bonn. After local authorities threatened to close the school, sponsors of the Saudi school demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with district officials. One year later, school authorities discovered passages in the school books which diminished the value of Christians and Jews. Again, there was a debate about closing the school. Since then, the school has opened its doors to the public, seeking dialogue, hosting activities and regularly inviting Bonn residents to visit the school.
City spokesperson Monika Hörig acknowledged that the Fahad Academy had opened up in the last years and worked together with the city but she said they welcomed the decision from Saudi officials which was based on recognition of the quality of the German education system. They would now have to work together quickly to find a solution for further schooling of the students.
State parliament representative Bernhard von Grünberg sees two major challenges that will come as a result of the school closing. The first is how and where the students will be taught when the school is shut down and the second is what to do with the building which is located on Mallwitzstraße. “It shouldn’t sit vacant for so many years like the former Saudi Arabian Embassy,” he said. He has spoken with the Saudi Embassy in Berlin about two possible uses for the building; one could be as a scientific center where the Saudi government could hold seminars and events based on topics such as desertification and water resources and the other possible use could be as a dialogue center for Islamic issues.
The King Fahad Academy educates students in grades 1 through 10 using the Saudi Arabian curriculum. Subjects are taught in the Arabic language. German and English are required foreign languages at every grade level. In August of 2014, the International Baccalaureate program was introduced for 11th and 12th graders, taught in the English language. Bad Godesberg’s Mayor Simone Stein-Lücke said she was surprised by the news and regretted the closing of the school, which despite a controversial history had become a solid part of the social and cultural life in Bonn.
(Orig. text: Frank Vallender)