Lessons in Saudi history to foster cultural identity

Updated 22 September 2013
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Lessons in Saudi history to foster cultural identity

Teaching youngsters the history, culture, religion, citizenship and economic progress of the Kingdom can help unify the country and promote patriotism, according to experts.
Saleh Al-Romaih, a sociology professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, said that with time, the information gleaned from these classes would become embedded in the personalities of students.
Al-Romaih told Arab News this would happen because the material teaches students morals and highlights the efforts of the country's institutions. It also educates them about their duties and rights. As this information is gradually absorbed by the students, it will transform from a passion into a mindset, he said.
Al-Romaih said the course is of greater value because it is not compulsory. Students are not under pressure to perform and are more ready to accept the information. If the material becomes part of the curriculum, it would be like any other course, he said.
He said the scientific material currently offered in the National Education course is satisfactory and does not require any additions or changes. However, it should be taught by qualified teachers with specific training to make the subject matter interesting and simple. He suggested teaching the information through workshops to allow for greater discussion among students.
Abdullah Al-Shahrani, an educator at a public school in Jeddah, said the National Education course encourages and develops aspects of religious sensibility because it emphasizes the importance of prayer. It also defines social institutions in residential neighborhoods, and familiarizes students with the concept of systems and societal regulations related to daily life.
"As students move from one stage to another, the curriculum evolves to make them more aware of different concepts such as citizenship, the role of imams, scientists, the kings of Al-Saud and the Islamic faith. It also informs them about the achievements of this country.” He said the course makes students aware of the concept of tourism in Islam, tourism areas in the country, and the factors creating unity and integration between Islamic countries.
Al-Romaih said women should also take up the course because they form half of Saudi society. Women need such courses because they are citizens with responsibilities and duties toward the development of the community and have rights. They would also learn new ways to instill the Kingdom's values in their children.


Ethiopia says British museum must permanently return its artifacts

Updated 24 April 2018
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Ethiopia says British museum must permanently return its artifacts

  • The artifacts were plundered by British troops from the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II 150 years ago
  • Among the items on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum are sacred manuscripts and gold 

ADDIS ABABA: Britain must permanently return all artifacts from Ethiopia held by the Victoria and Albert Museum and Addis Ababa will not accept them on loan, an Ethiopian government official said.
The call comes after the museum, one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, put Ethiopian treasures plundered by British forces on display.
“Well, it would be exciting if the items held at the V&A could be part of a long-term loan with a cultural institution in Ethiopia,” museum director Tristram Hunt said.
“These items have never been on a long-term loan in Ethiopia, but as we look to the future I think what we’re interested in are partnerships around conservation, interpretation, heritage management, and these need to be supported by government assistance so that institutions like the V&A can support sister institutions in Ethiopia.”
Among the items on display are sacred manuscripts and gold taken from the Battle of Maqdala 150 years ago, when British troops ransacked the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II.
The offer of a loan did not go far enough for Ethiopia.
“What we have asked (for) was the restitution of our heritage, our Maqdala heritage, looted from Maqdala 150 years ago. We presented our request in 2007 and we are waiting for it,” said government minister Hirut Woldemariam said.
Ephrem Amare, Ethiopian National Museum director, added: “It is clearly known where these treasures came from and whom they belong to. Our main demand has never been to borrow them. Ethiopia’s demand has always been the restoration of those illegally looted treasures. Not to borrow them.”
The V&A could not immediately be reached for further comment on Monday.
In launching the Maqdala 1868 exhibition of what Hunt called “stunning pieces with a complex history” this month, he said the display had been organized in consultation with the Ethiopian community in London.
“As custodians of these Ethiopian treasures, we have a responsibility to celebrate the beauty of their craftsmanship, shine a light on their cultural and religious significance and reflect on their living meaning, while being open about how they came to Britain,” he said in a blog on the museum website.