A part of The English School Legacy, honouring Professor Alexandros Alkidas
25 Jul. 2022
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Author: Myrto Zoumidou
The translated version of the article can be found below:
Our grandfather, Alexandros AlkidaMyrto Zoumidou
There are many links that man creates in the transition from life. One of the most important is the relationship between teacher and student…, and this is reflected in the words of Alexander the Great when he was referring to his teacher, Aristotle: 'We owe it to our parents that we live, and to our teachers that we live well'. This, of course, refers to inspirational teachers who are ready to go out of their way to offer their students the best knowledge and learning experience. This is true for one such teacher Professor Alexandros Alkida, who devoted his life to The English School; he serviced his students even after his retirement.
Alexandros K. Papadopoulos (Alkidas)
The life story of Alexander K. Alkida could be said to be intertwined with the history of The English School. Almost two decades after the School's establishment, in 1919, the Professor was recruited and served for a long time and with great dedication until his retirement in 1943. The boarding school of The English School was named after him to honour him for his commitment. The Alks Boarding house was completed in 1948 and still retains its name.
His grandchildren, Elena Alkida Hacholiadou and Alexandros K. Alkidas, who also bears his name, spoke about this inspiring Professor. Remembering their grandfather's life, they unlocked some beautiful memories they shared with us. Most of these stories are unknown to the general public, concerning a significant part of the history of The English School that is still intertwined with our country.
Alexandros K. Papadopoulos (Alkidas) in the School yard.
'The euphemism Alkida.'
Born in 1881 in the early years of Anglo-occupation, Alexandros Alkida was a small boy of short stature, pale, and thin. Despite this, he showed his love and thirst for learning from early childhood. In the evenings, he studied under the lamplight on the street outside his house.
For the record, as they explained to us, his real name was Alexandros K. Papadopoulos. The nickname "Alkidas" is a Latin synonym for a euphemism given to him by one of his beloved professors, who decided to replace his surname with Alkidas.
"His teacher admired his love of learning and made sure he would be able to study further in England," they tell us. Upon completing his studies, Alexandros Alkida will return to Cyprus and, shortly after, in 1919, be employed by The English School under the auspices of its founder, Canan Newham, to teach English to students. Thus, he could follow in his teacher's footsteps and collaborate with him.
Parade of the English School with Alexander Alcidas following the students with his cane
He became a widower after losing his wife, Elegkos, a teacher from Larnaca, at the age of 33. He thus was left to raise his only son Costas in Nicosia. Alexandros continued to serve at The English School while Costa studied there. Even after his retirement, he remained there and offered free (unpaid) educational services in the afternoons to support students of the School. Looking at the photo archive provided by his granddaughter for the purpose of the report, we found that all the photos were of his life at The English School since he devoted most of his life to it and lived to teach.
1938, English School Field Trip to Bedford
He was all in, he loved his students, and they loved him. He inspired them in lessons and joined them in parades, trips and other activities. Over the years, his student that graduated from higher education would send him gifts, pennies, books and even photos dedicated 'to their favourite teacher…' especially those from England.
Student's dedication to his beloved professor Alexandros Alkidas
His grandchildren will always remember him as an intelligent man who wanted to learn even at old age. In fact, at the age of 80, he asked his son and grandchildren to pitch in for the cost, and they all learned the Sanskrit language (a classical language of South Asia) together.
What was his relationship with the reknowned poet Demetris Lipertis? We asked them. 'They were inseparable friends and good colleagues at The English School', they answered. They were educated people at that time and enjoyed each other's company. Amongst his personal items, his daughter found a book given to him by Demetris Lipertis with a beautiful dedication.
1st row, third from the left with a black armband is Alexandros K. Alkidas
His grandchildren have fond memories of him; far from his educational duties, they remember him as a loving and tender person who shared many stories with them. 'He loved animals, and in his yard, he had a huge tutle that we would play with when we visited him, they tell us. He apparently, tried to teach the turtle how to run!
He would visit them at their home in Larnaca and stay for the holidays, and also during school time, he would read to them and inspire them to love letters as much as he did. He wanted his grandchildren to be educated. His grandson, Alexander K. ALkidas, who lives in Rochester Hills, Michigan, graduated from Athens College and continued his studies in America. Between 1976 to 2005, he held the position of Senior Research Engineer at General Motors. To date, he has published 148 scientific articles related to his subject.
He was typically remembered as a heavy smoker. 'He ate very little, however, spoked a lot', we were told. They confess to us that he was a religious man. He had a good relationship with the church; he served as head of the St Lucia Church for some time. 'He travelled to the Holy Land to bring holy water from the Jordan River so that I could be baptised', Ms Elena tells us.
Professor Alkida's family has grown over the years, in addition to his two grandchildren; he had five great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren; one even bears his name, Alexandros K Alkidas!
The Boarding house "Alks" is named in honour of this great teacher.
For his family, it is a great honour that until this date, there is a building of The English School that bears the name of their grandfather, directly linked to his contribution and his love for his students, especially since he is the only Cypriot Professor to have his name given to a building at the School. It was, of course, not a coincidence that his name was given to the boarding house; he spent endless hours with his students, helping them study, teaching them in the evenings, listening to them and being part of what were some beautiful memories.
According to what Kyriakos A. Dimitriadis (2019) said in his book, which is dedicated to a historical review from the founding of The English School up to 1960. In 1948 when the building of Alks Boarding house was completed, it was an integral addition to the School's campus. As far as the Alks Boarding House is concerned, its architecture is outstanding, consisting of several arches, while several materials for its construction were collected fromPentadaktylos and Troodos.
The Alks Boarding House was officially handed over to the then Headmaster at the time, E. Jackson on the 15th November 1948, and its construction costs amounted to GBP 55,900. We were told, that due to the much housing needs, the first 67 boarders moved in 1947 before electricity could be installed. After its completion, students, some teachers and other staff members had everything they needed for their accommodation and daily life.
Professor Alexandros Alkidas with other teachers of The English School
Life in the Boarding House in the 1950s
The English School in those years provided housing to its pupils who arrived to study from long-distance villages in Cyprus. Apart from the need for housing, the managers at the time emphasised the necessity of developing an environment that would provide a safe, healthy environment contributing to the well-being of its students through their daily contact. The students studying at the School came from different backgrounds, had different nationalities, followed different religions and even had different mother tongues; therefore, this was an opportunity to promote diversity and ensure that all the students learnt from each other. In fact, after World War II, this became the official policy of the School and the Ministry of Education to encourage the coexistence of students from different origins and pave the way for them to face the future in the wider society.
Students in Alks, getting ready for bed.
Life at Alks Boarding House provided other vital life lessons to its residents, as they learnt to take the initiative and responsibility for their hygiene, cleanliness of the premises and respect the environment they lived in under the supervision of the people who worked there. A daily programme was in place, and everyone needed to adhere to it with no exceptions. They needed to wake up early, make their beds, wash up and get ready for breakfast, while they were also subject to inspection by the boarding school housekeepers. The boarding house provided its residents with all the necessary meals prepared at the premises. At the same time, the process of serving the food had its importance, and the responsibility fell to the older boys, who usually sat at the head of each table. In the afternoon, the boarders had enough free time to play and engage in recreation. In addition to the School's pitches/courts, students also improvised making their own-constructed playing pitches. As expected, accidents are unavoidable, but the students were good friends and classmates and were careful to manage these accidents amongst themselves without involving those in charge. There was certainly no shortage of gatherings and small parties during the holidays at the Alks Boarding House. Every Sunday, The Christian Orthodox students were led in a procession to the church either at Metochi of Kykkos or Panagia Chryseleousa in Strovolos for their church service. Similarly, the Muslim students visited the Bayraktar Mosque in the Nicosia-walled city every Friday.
The lifelong friendships/bonds are created.
Naturally, The English School boarders who grew up together developed strong bonds of friendship that have endured the decades. These bonds were not only formed between students of the same age, class or religion but also went further to reach the whole community. This was one of the values of the School and its founder Canon Newham that wanted to instil in the students and is an honourable legacy of the School. That is why Alks was a milestone, a landmark dedicated to a 'deserving teacher'.
Following the Turkish invasion of 1974, the Alks House ceased to function in accordance with the role for which it was created due to the state of emergency called by the government. The Cypriot government decided to house the Acropolis Gymnasium after the Turkish invasion in exchange of a nominal rent per year.
Over time and due to the "temporary" concession, the rent for the use of the Alks building was misinterpreted as a state sponsorship, creating a false impression of the ownership of the Alks building and the correspondence of the annual rent to The English School. However, there have been increasing voices in recent years saying that the building should be returned to The English School and that the government should take care of relocating the High School.
Since its founding, The English School has had to overcome some challenging conditions and periods. The Alks Boarding Housing was imperative for the use of the students coming from distant villages. According to Kyriacos Demetriades' book, when Alexandras Alkida taught at the School, the School was a school of the poor but of the intellectual boys of Cyprus because most of them came from villages all over Cyprus. The English School was not, nor is it, for the rich, but for the outstanding, intellectual students being admitted following successfully completing/participating in a rigorous entrance exam. Students continued to excel in their academic performance obtained in international examinations or other educational programmes they participated.
During his recent visit to Cyprus and to The English School, his favorite school, the well-known Professor of Fetal Medicine Dr. Kypros Nicolaidis, wanted to visit the Alks boarding school and was photographed there, recalling memories and experiences he lived during his student years when he arrived from Paphos to Nicosia to study at The English School, from the 4th grade onwards. He shared with us some amazing stories of his time at the boarding school!