St Joseph’s School is currently the oldest private school in Abu Dhabi emirate. In its 50th year, the school is planning to rebuild one of its buildings to add laboratories and indoor sports courts. Abu Dhabi: Around 15,000 students have passed through the halls of St Joseph’s School which is celebrating five decades of operation in the capital this year. In fact, the only reason the number of students isn’t higher is because the children who join the Indian curriculum school hardly ever transfer to other institutions for their schooling, Sister Carmen, school principal, told Gulf News. “Even today, we have a 600-student-long waiting list for Grade 1 alone but our facility is at full capacity with its 1,432 students,” she said. St Joseph’s is the oldest among the more than 180 private schools in operation in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. When it first opened its doors in 1967, the majority of schools were private enterprises run from small buildings, and the UAE had not yet been formed. “From what I have heard, the school was run from a shed-like structure, and we had about 30 students,” Sister Carmen recounts. At that time, the school offered the British curriculum. But in 1987, the school switched to the Indian Central Board of Secondary Education curriculum, and also moved to its current premises in Al Mushrif area. “There were other schools at the time offering the British curriculum but none offering an Indian curriculum, and the decision was made to cater to Indian expatriates,” the principal explained. The school takes in both boys and girls from Grade 1 to 6, and enrols only female students from Grades 7 to 12. To celebrate its 50th year, the school will organise a week of activities for students in May, including an inter-school quiz competition, public speaking contests and talent shows. “We are not planning to expand our premises, but we do want to enhance our facilities after all these years. So the plan is to rebuild one of our buildings to house the existing classrooms while also adding laboratories and indoor sports courts,” Sister Carmen said. In addition to the students who spend most of their schooling years at St Joseph’s, many teachers who join the institution continue to teach there till the end of their careers. One such dedicated teacher is Mariamma Rakesh Kumar, 55, who has been at the school for 30 years. She is the learning supervisor at St Joseph’s, and teaches Chemistry and Maths. “I love to interact with children, and that is why I am still here. And the school’s sense of warmth and community is something that I am blessed to be a part of,” she said. Kumar’s daughters, now aged 30 and 26 years, were once students at the school. Another teacher, Sonia Thomas, remembers joining the school in 1993 when she was pregnant with her first child. “The school’s sense of inclusiveness and its strong moral values are what have kept me here all these years,” she said. To mark the 50th year celebrations, the school has also launched a logo, designed by 12th grader Sophia Mary Matthew, 16. “I joined the school in Grade 1, and will be sad to leave it when I finish my Grade 12 exams next month. But in the meantime, I am happy to be here when this amazing school marks its 50 years,” she added.