Kingdom lacks special needs professionals

Updated 22 September 2013
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Kingdom lacks special needs professionals

The Kingdom needs qualified and experienced medical and teaching professionals for the increasing number of children with autism and disabilities, according to a local psychologist.
There are over 200,000 disabled children in schools across the Kingdom. “The Kingdom doesn’t really lack disability centers for children, but it does lack professionals in the field,” said Uzma Raheem, a clinical psychologist. Raheem is the founder of the Hope Center for Exceptional Needs, where she also works as a therapist.
“The education is not up to standard,” said Raheem. The education system is only producing people with BA degrees. “It is not creating the kind of people you need to supervise, head or lead.”
Raheem says the country needs more qualified occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech and hearing professionals. However, the education system is only producing “young girls with newly awarded BA degrees, who have just been let loose in the field. I wouldn’t send my child to them but parents with disabled children in the Kingdom are left with no choice and are desperate for services.”
Raheem said universities should focus on offering courses on occupational therapy and speech and hearing with qualifications at the master’s level to be on par with international standards.
“Right now, we don’t need people to take top positions,” said Raheem. “There are plenty of people for top positions today. What we really need right now are people who will supervise, people who will direct and monitor and those who are going to make sure proper work is done. These are the kind of people we are missing in the field of special education.”
“For example, I am the director of the Hope Center in Jeddah, but my job is mostly a desk job,” said Raheem. “When I started out, I used to train and that’s how it went. You really need people in that stage. What we have right now is people at the top level and the bottom level. The hierarchy that is needed to create a perfect setup is not available.”
“I want the disabled students to get a chance in life,” says Haya Al-Shahrani, a graduate in special education studies. “For example, they must be able to continue their education and take up jobs, just like other regular children. For this, we need a set of expert trainers who will provide the best guidance in this field.”
“Schools devoted to special education are launched almost randomly and most teachers are not qualified or at the very least, trained enough to handle complex cases, let alone educate children with special needs,” wrote Abdullah Sayel, a Saudi columnist.


World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

A Saudi woman and her friends celebrate her first time driving on a main street of Alkhobar city in eastern Saudi Arabia on her way to Bahrain on June 24, 2018. (AFP / HUSSAIN RADWAN)
Updated 25 June 2018
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World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

  • As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips, while some police officers among the large number out on the streets distributed roses to the first-ti
  • The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet 

JEDDAH: The world awoke on Sunday to images and video footage many thought they would never see — newly empowered Saudi women taking the wheel and driving their cars.

As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips, while some police officers among the large number out on the streets distributed roses to the first-time drivers.

The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet.

“I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and the spirit to dream,” she said.

In a tribute to Saudi female drivers, the Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji released a special video of a song she performed live in Riyadh at a concert last December “Today women in Saudi Arabia can legally drive their cars,” she said. “Congratulations on this achievement, this one’s for you!”

Back home in Saudi Arabia, the atmosphere was euphoric. “It’s a beautiful day,” businesswoman Samah Algosaibi said as she cruised around the city of Alkhobar. 

“Today we are here,” she said from the driver’s seat. “Yesterday we sat there,” she said, pointing to the back.

“I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated,” said Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena, one of the first women to drive in the Kingdom.

She told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”

Almaeena urged all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.

“But I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”