by Vahid Rafatipublished in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Volume 3
New York: Columbia University, 1989
The Bahai schools were a series of government recognized educational institutions established, owned, and controlled by the Bahai community in various centers of Iran and Ashkhabad and conducted on Bahai principles from 1897 until 1929 in Ashkhabad and until 1934 in Iran.
Despite the significance of child education, both general and religious, as explicitly propounded in the writings of Bahāʾ-Allāh, who made the education of both boys and girls an obligation of the parents (see Baháʾí Education, pp. 4-6), and further elaborated by his son and successor, ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ (d. 1340/1921; ibid., pp. 11-53), the prolonged and severe persecution of the Bahai community which started with the inception of the Babi faith in Iran in 1260/1844 and continued throughout the period of Bahāʾ-Allāh’s ministry (d. 1309/1892), had prevented the process of formal education of Bahai children from unfolding until about 1897. Before then, only informal elementary classes could be offered by individual believers at private homes on a tutorial basis. These classes were designed primarily to provide fundamental courses on the Persian and Arabic languages and literatures, and the history and writings of the Bahai faith. They were held in early Bahai communities such as Russian Turkmenistan, Burma, and various places in Iran like Najafābād near Isfahan.
Under the guidance of ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ more than thirty Bahai schools were gradually established as circumstances permitted throughout Iran and several places in India, Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, and southern Russia.
Established, controlled, and funded through the support of the Bahai community, the earliest Bahai schools began in Tehran and Ashkhabad, now in Russian Turkmenistan, and were followed by the erection of the Tawakkol school in Qazvīn, the Taʾyīd and the Mawhebat (for girls) in Hamadān, the Waḥdat-e Bašar in Kāšān, the Maʿrefat in Ārān (near Kāšān), the Taraqqī in Šahmīrzād (near Semnān), the Mīṯāqīya in Neyrīz, and a number of similar schools in Ābāda, Qomrūd (near Kāšān), Najafābād, Bahnamīr (near Sārī), Maryamābād and Mehdīābād (near Yazd), Bārforūš, Sārī, Bošrūya (in Khorasan), Eštehārd (near Karaj), and several other schools outside Iran such as Tashkent, Marv, İskenderun (Turkey), and Daidanaw (Burma). Bahai schools not only attracted the children of Bahai background but soon gained enough educational strength and reliability to attract children of various religious and social backgrounds.
The Tarbīat school was established in Tehran in 1315/1897 and two years later became officially recognized by the government. Founded by Ḥājī Mīrzā Ḥasan Adīb Ayādī (d. 1337/1918), the Tarbīat became one of the best-known schools in Iran by virtue of the devotion of its teachers, the advanced quality of its curriculum, and its high standard of order and discipline (Ṯābet, pp. 94-95; Baháʾí News 1/7, 1910, p. 5). During the first few years of its existence the Tarbīat was supported by financial contributions from individual Bahais, but, as it expanded in subsequent years, the local Spiritual Assembly of Tehran formed a management committee. Among its earliest members were Dr. ʿAṭāʾ-Allāh Baḵšāyeš (d. 1363/1944) and Dr. Moḥammad Monajjem (d. 1338/1920). Following Adīb, Monajjem and Baḵšāyeš, ʿAzīz-Allāh Meṣbāḥ (d. 1363/1945) and ʿAlī-Akbar Forūtan became the principals of the school. A statistical report shows that the school in 1330/1911 had a total of 371 students in 8 grades (in 11 classes), 18 faculty members, and 4 staff (ms., International Baháʾí Archives, Haifa, MR 1402). By 1932 the school offered 6 preparatory grades and 4 intermediate grades; of the 26 teachers, 20 were Bahais, and of the 541 students, 339 were Bahais, 175 Muslims, 21 Christians, 4 Jews, and 2 Zoroastrians (The Baháʾí World V, p. 117).
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