Ex-Tokyoite now Oman’s educator ‘in desert’

by Michiko Munakata

Kyodo News

Suad Mohammed Al-Mudhaffar, originally Mihoko Morita hailing from the Tokyo suburb of Tachikawa, went to Oman after her divorce together with her daughter to teach Japanese culture there.

She became the first Japanese woman to obtain Omani citizenship, changing her name and establishing a private school in Muscat in 1990.

At first, there were only five students, but she was able to turn the school into a huge educational institution where about 550 children from kindergartners to high school students are now studying. She recently published a book titled, “Sabaku ni Tsukutta Sekaiichi no Gakko” (“The World’s Top School Created in a Desert”).

Suad, who declined to reveal her age, said, “While in Japan, I hated school because it was a place to do what it has decided, rather than to do what I wanted.”

In Oman, she remarried and hit upon the idea to establish a school. “I wanted to create a school where students think on their own and cultivate skills in their respective fields,” she said.

She attended a local elementary school to restudy the country’s language and attempted several business ventures to raise money. One time, she bounced a check, prompting her business partner to go to the police.

Although she managed to open the Azzan Bin Qais private school, financial difficulties haunted it. She also argued with officials over the opening of a summer school.

“Each time, I made a breakthrough in the impasse by freely using my own Suad-style persuasion skills with guts and enthusiasm, believing that there are absolutely no duds in this world.”

Suad recently visited Japan to see one of her students, who is now at Ritsumeikan University. The student is one of the first five who entered her school upon its opening.

Learning the student will go to a U.S. graduate school to train as a teacher, she said: “The student believed in me coming from the strange country of Japan and my educational ideal. I am pleased to know that the student will succeed me.”