Thursday, March 3, 2016

Opening of the “Djemaran” of Hamazkayin (March 3, 1930)

The Hamazkayin Cultural and Educational Union was founded in 1928 in Egypt. One of its main goals was to promote education among Armenians in the Diaspora.

Less than two years after the creation of Hamazkayin, the Armenian College (Hay Djemaran) was opened in a rented building in Beirut, on Kantari Street, with fifteen students. It was March 3, 1930. In the fall of the same year, when the academic year 1930-1931 started, the number of student had quadrupled, becoming 63.

The first school building.

Levon Shant
The goal of the Djemaran (an institution of secondary education) was to offer general education to the new generation, with an emphasis on Armenian education, language, and culture, and prepare the next generation of Armenian intellectuals. The first principal of the school was the noted writer, educator, and public figure Levon Shant (1869-1951), with the collaboration of another noted literary critic, educator, and public figure, Nikol Aghbalian (1873-1947).
Nikol Aghbalian
The Djemaran soon moved to a more ample and comfortable building on the street Wadi Abu Gemil, until the donation of the Palandjian sisters and the fundraisers in the United States allowed the purchase of a property in the area of Zokak el Blat, which was inaugurated in May 1950. The Djemaran took the name of Nshan Palandjian, a founding member of Hamazkayin in Syria and the late brother of the donors.

After the death of Levon Shant in 1951, the position of principal was taken by Simon Vratzian (1882-1969), writer, editor, and last prime minister of the first Republic of Armenia. He was assisted by the writer Mushegh Ishkhan (1913-1990) and educator Karnig Panian (1910-1989) as vice principals. The second and third buildings of the Djemaran were built in 1953 and 1957.

Vratzian fell ill and Hratch Dasnabedian replaced him as principal in fall of 1968. New floors were added to the three buildings to accommodate the growing number of students.

The student body passed 1,000 in the academic year 1974-1975, and the space of the school was insufficient, despite constructions and additions. The Central Board of Hamazkayin decided to build a new school complex and a large piece of property was purchased in the area of Mezher. However, the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990 initially slowed down all projects, and forced important changes. The internal movement of the Armenian population in Beirut was followed by the division of the student body in two buildings. Together with the headquarters, part of the student body was relocated for two years in Dubbaya and afterwards, for eight years, at the Shaghzoyan Center in Bourj Hammoud (the current headquarters of the Aztag Daily), which became a six-floor building.

The war, however, did not stop the project. Construction of the Mezher complex started in 1986. Thanks to the huge donation of Melankton Arslanian, followed after his death by his brother Haig Arslanian, as well as donations flowing from Lebanon and other countries (especially Kuwait and the Gulf States), the first two buildings of the complex were built, the same as the Norsigian Kindergarten thanks to the homonymous will.

The campus today.

The Djemaran moved to its new building in 1987 and the grand opening was held in the fall of 1988. The small kindergarten and elementary school remaining at the historical building of the Nshan Palandjian Djemaran were also moved in 2001, and the entire school was reunified in the Melankton and Haig Arslanian Djemaran. Currently, the school has three sections: pre-nursery and nursery, for 1-3 year old children; the Norsigian Kindergarten (three years), and the school proper, with elementary, primary, junior high, and high school sections.

After the death of Hratch Dasnabedian in April 2001 and a short tenure by a three-member Executive Council, the position of principal was entrusted to Dikran Jinbashian, with a current student population of 700 children.