Saudi Arabia approves physical education program in girls’ schools

Saudi boxer Halah Al-Hamrani.
Updated 11 July 2017
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Saudi Arabia approves physical education program in girls’ schools

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education (MoE) has approved a physical education program at girls’ schools starting in the coming academic year.
Education Minister Ahmed Al-Issa issued a decree on Tuesday, under which classes will be gradually implemented starting in the 2017-2018 school year.
Schools with the means to provide gyms of the required standard must also provide sufficient and qualified instructors suited for the task.
The move is linked to the goal of boosting sporting activities among all members of Saudi society, one of the targets of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan.
The education minister’s decision includes the formation of a supervisory committee to implement the program, headed by Haya bint Abdul Aziz Al-Awwad, the undersecretary of education for girls.
The committee is to develop a document containing objectives and performance indicators for the program, in addition to preparing an interim operational plan and working with universities.
The decision comes after three months of intensive studies by a specialized team commissioned by the minister to review all directives and recommendations in this regard.
Lina K. Almaeena, a Shoura Council member, said the move was one of the benefits of the Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 initiatives.
“I’m very happy with the issue of the decree and this is a historic day for all Saudi girls in the Kingdom,” she said.
“I’m very thankful to the MoE and Princess Reema bint Bandar, deputy at the General Sports Authority. I’ve been working for over a decade in the private sector and private schools and this is a historic decree for all schools, public and private.”

When asked whether the decree was timed well, Almaeena said: “I’m an optimist and rather than looking back, we should all look forward. We don’t have the logistics, location or setting and a decree such as this is not as easy as many believe it is. They certainly took their time to review all recommendations in terms of technicalities for implementing health education programs in girls’ schools.”
Sultan A.J., a banker and a father to a 7-year-old boy and 5-year old girl, said he was “extremely optimistic” about the news.
“I now know that my daughter will have the same opportunities as my son when it comes to sports-related activities in school,” he said.
“I already have my young daughter in an afternoon school program to keep her active and she loves playing gymnastics and swimming. With this decree I’m sure my daughter will finally enjoy her time in school along with her school friends and build a good understanding as to what being healthy is all about.”
Fitness and health trainers have also welcomed the decree, with many having provided private classes to young girls for some time. “Keeping young girls active not only helps with their physical shape but also enables them to think more toward a healthier lifestyle,” said Nouf Hamadallah, a certified health and fitness trainer in Jeddah.
“My two daughters love to dance and stay active; I’m fortunate that my girls’ school has a physical education class but it’s a shame others don’t. With this decree, more young girls will have the chance now to grow to love something that is new but will help them keep healthy and stay strong as they grow. Not only do my girls learn from me, they have the opportunity to learn from their school as well; now all Saudi girls can have that same chance.”
Many Saudis and expats living in the Kingdom have shown their support for the MoE’s decree — but there are some who do not agree.
“I don’t think it’s right for a young girl to take a sports class in school, she will grow harsh and rough, which goes against her delicate nature,” said Mohammed M.S., a longtime banker. “I won’t deny my daughter’s participation in any (physical education) related activities in school but I will draw a line somewhere.”
Many young girls in Saudi Arabia are big fans of local soccer teams and US basketball teams as well as some legendary tennis players.
Maymoona Sultan, a ninth-grade student in Riyadh, loves playing tennis and has attended a summer camp over the past two years.
“I hope my school opens a tennis class since the game is not only very active, it’s extremely fun to throw a ball around and test your strength,” she said. “My mom told me about the decree and I’m happy that more girls will get to understand about sports and health like me.”


Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

Updated 18 February 2019
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Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

  • Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy
  • Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom

RIYADH: A major transformation is underway in Saudi Arabia’s economic relationship with Pakistan, according to Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, a former ambassador to Islamabad.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News, the former envoy said greater interaction between business and the private sectors in both countries will take the historical bond “to a new level.” 

Asseri, who spent nine years in Islamabad and was the second-longest serving Saudi ambassador to the country, said: “We know that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always enjoyed an incomparable level of understanding and friendship based on religion, culture and values. There is a historical bond between the two countries. 

“I have no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is taking a cohesive approach to strengthen the relationship and take it to another level.” 

Asseri said that while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cooperated closely on security matters, bilateral trade between the countries remained limited to about $4 billion. 

“We need to ... encourage the private sectors to interact more. We can help Pakistan’s industry and we need to become more involved in the trade sector. There are advanced industries and firms in Pakistan, and they have raw materials — it’s a good environment for investors.”

Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy. The Kingdom is also making billion-dollar direct investments in the country in line with the China-Pakistan economic corridor. 

“I am happy to see a major transformation underway in Saudi-Pakistani economic relationships with our leadership and government deciding to invest in the economic development of Pakistan,” he said. 

The former ambassador said frequent official visits between the two countries were important. 

“I came back recently from Pakistan, and the vibe of the media, government and people was so optimistic. Pakistanis were excited about the crown prince’s visit. People hope it will bring great opportunities for the economy as well as strengthening the political and social ties between the two countries,” he said.

Asseri said Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had faced many challenges together in recent decades.

In 2001, during Asseri’s first year as Saudi ambassador in Pakistan, the 9/11 attacks on New York led to greater cooperation between Islamabad and Riyadh in dealing with terrorism.

The Kingdom had been closely involved with Pakistan since its independence, he said. “King Abdul Aziz sent King Saud and Prince Faisal to Pakistan at that time. So if we go back through history, we can see that this relationship is truly unique.” 

Asseri also highlighted the ties between the two countries on humanitarian issues, security and military issues, saying: “Pakistan has suffered serious security and humanitarian consequences of the decades-long war in Afghanistan, besides housing millions of Afghan refugees.

“Together Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have worked for peace in Afghanistan and will do whatever it takes to achieve this long-desired goal.”

Asseri said Pakistanis were quick to show their appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s assistance in the past regardless of the change in Pakistani leadership over the years. 

“The relationship is unique because it is between people. Such a relationship (will) keep growing with every generation.

“When Pakistan was in a difficult position in 2005 after a devastating earthquake, Saudi Arabia went out of its way to provide the support it needed. Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz and eight ministers visited Balochistan. Field hospitals were created with Saudi doctors treating people and performing surgery there.” 

Pakistan also has a deep loyalty to Saudi Arabia, Asseri said. “Pakistan has military expertise, and through cooperation between the two countries, it helped the Saudi military during its development.” 

“The Kingdom’s recent appointment of a Saudi commercial attache in Pakistan will also bolster the economic links between the two countries,” he said. 

“There are good minds in Pakistan and good products that could be manufactured in Saudi Arabia.”

Asseri said he is also optimistic that Saudi plans to build a major oil refinery in Gwadar will help create an “economic hub.” 

The former envoy said the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan will add to the relationship between the countries. 

Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom. 

“Young Pakistanis who are advanced in the IT and industrial sectors are looking forward to helping and cooperating with Saudi Arabia, and sharing their experiences and knowledge,” he said.