KSA-hosted Umrah for US ‘clockmaker’ harassed by school

Updated 07 October 2015

KSA-hosted Umrah for US ‘clockmaker’ harassed by school

JEDDAH: The Kingdom is hosting for Umrah the American student who was recently wrongfully arrested after a teacher at his school in Texas mistook his homemade clock for a bomb.
Ahmed Mohammed Al-Hassan, who is of Sudanese origin, would also visit relatives in Jeddah during his trip.
Awad Qarshom, head of the Sudanese community, told Arab News: “We appreciate this decision by the Kingdom. We intend to have a reception to honor this student. We are trying to cooperate with the Sudanese Consulate in Jeddah to set up a special event.”
The plight of the youngster caused a media storm in the United States, with President Barak Obama expressing his support and inviting him to visit the White House with his clock.
Other politicians and activists also expressed support for Al-Hassan, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Al-Hassan was a student at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, when he was arrested in September because his teacher suspected his clock was a bomb.
His uncle Moussa Al-Hassan did not blame the teacher. “The ordinary American citizen lives in a state of fear of Arabs because of the American media’s portrayal of him as an extremist terrorist,” Moussa was quoted as saying at the time.
The clock, which Al-Hassan built in 20 minutes using basic materials, led to his arrest by Texas police. Ahmed could not go to school for three days, and the incident has sparked widespread anger that he was unfairly treated.
His arrest is loosely reminiscent of a similar experience his grandfather had, also at the age of 14, in the family’s Sudanese village of Shatoy. “My father was passionate about science,” Moussa recalled. “Aware that the schools affiliated with the British occupation were the best, he ran away to study in the city of Omdurman, even though his father strongly opposed those schools.”
But after he had walked several kilometers on foot, “one of the local residents caught him, held him for several hours, and sent him back to his family,” Moussa said. “He returned to the Khalawie schools, which the Sudanese prefer to the British schools.”

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

Updated 25 min 10 sec ago

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

  • Lamsa was launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012
  • It provides an innovative way of motivating children to learn

DUBAI: The most crucial year in a child’s education may be the age of 8, or third grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The organization, which focuses on improving the wellbeing of American children, found this to be the developmental phase when children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The research also established that third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times as likely to become high-school dropouts.

The significance of this pivotal point in early childhood development is what drives Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa, to develop innovative ways of motivating kids in the Arab world to read and learn in their language.

“If we don’t encourage reading at that age, we could be taking the risk of them having a life-long issue with catching up,” Ward said.

Since children already spend a considerable amount of their time on connected devices, Ward is convinced that edutainment — media designed to educate through entertainment — is the best way to make screen time “relevant and meaningful.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa. (Supplied Photo)

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Lamsa provides an ad-free platform featuring animated literature, rhymes, songs, interactive games and educational videos in Arabic for children aged between 2 and 8.

Ward said: “We have to face reality. Education systems across the world are legacy systems. Whether we like it or not, technology has changed the way we consume information. Children today have access to devices from the moment they are born. So whether it’s reading on paper or e-books or interactive storytelling, we need to look at encouraging them to read, and to love to read and learn.”

Ward explains that much like a favorite teacher impacts a child’s interest in a subject, edutainment has a significant effect on their curiosity about a topic.

He modelled the characters in the edutainment app after his daughter Joory and son Adam, whose lack of interest in reading prompted him to start Lamsa.

Ward sought advice from his friend Leonard Marcus, an author, historian and expert on English language children’s literature. Marcus recommended taking the kids to a comic book store and letting them explore without forcing them to buy anything.

“So I did that,” Ward said. “We went to the comic book store, and I let them roam around. They were fascinated by the images.”

“Arabic is not just a language. It’s so important for children to understand their heritage and culture.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa

He then asked his kids if they wanted anything, and they asked to have some of the comics. “In the evening, I found my children opening the comic book and just laughing,” he said.

“Because of that start three years ago, they can’t let go of books now.”

Ward said seeing the power of images and illustrations has made him support using pictures to captivate children.

The lack of quality and culturally relevant educational material in Arabic remains a challenge, he said. For this reason, Lamsa’s content library has been developed to celebrate Arabic not just as a language but as a source of heritage, culture, literature, music and food. The app team works in partnership with Arab authors, illustrators and organizations.

“Arabic is not just a language,” Ward said, adding that for Arab children everywhere, understanding cultural context is crucial to their values, beliefs and identity.

“It’s so important in the development of children to have a clear understanding of where they come from. In order to establish understanding of other cultures and learn tolerance, you need to start with your own. It’s fundamental to confidence, identity and heritage.”


 The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.