Saudi Arabia approves physical education program in girls’ schools

Saudi boxer Halah Al-Hamrani.
Updated 11 July 2017

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.”


GCC summit calls for greater economic and defense unity among Gulf countries 

Updated 10 December 2019

GCC summit calls for greater economic and defense unity among Gulf countries 

  • Heads of the delegations land in Riyadh before the 40th Supreme Council meeting gets under way
  • King Salman tells the summit that the GCC has overcome many crises in its history

RIYADH: The GCC summit called for greater regional economic and defense integration as the meeting chaired by King Salman came to a close in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The final statement, read by GCC General Secretary Abdullatif Al-Zayani, called for finalizing legislation for financial and monetary unity by 2025, according to the meeting's final communique.

The statement also called for boosting military and security cooperation to maintain regional security.

“The leaders of the GCC countries have affirmed today their keenness to preserve the strength, cohesion and strength of the GCC …  as an oasis of stability, security, economic prosperity and social peace,” the statement said.

It referred to attacks in the last year against Saudi Arabia, including coordinated missile and drone strikes against major oil facilities blamed on Iran.

The statement said the GCC states “stand unified against the attacks” and that this reflected the Gulf defense agreement that says “aggression against a member state would be considered as aggression against all the GCC states.”

“The highest goal of the Cooperation Council is to achieve coordination, integration and interdependence among the member states in all fields in order to reach their unity,” it said.

The 40th Supreme Council meeting was chaired by King Salman, who met the heads of each delegation as they landed.

They included the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Oman's Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Said and Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

In his opening remarks, King Salman said the GCC had managed to overcome many crises that the region has faced.

He said the current set of challenges “call for concerted efforts to confront them.”

“The Iranian regime continues its hostile actions to undermine security and stability and support terrorism,” the king said.

He said the GCC must “work with the international community to stop the interference of this regime, deal seriously with its nuclear program and the program to develop ballistic missiles.”

There was no mention in the final communique of the dispute between Qatar and other Gulf and Arab countries. 

But Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah was the most senior Qatari official to attend the GCC summit since 2017 - the same year Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt launched a boycott of Qatar over its links to extremist groups among other things.

Speaking after the meeting, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said: “The four countries (boycotting Qatar) continue to support the efforts of the Kuwaiti Emir and value their success.”

Al-Zayani, who is stepping down as secretary general, said all the GCC leaders had praised the efforts of the Emir of Kuwait in preserving the unity of the cooperation. 

At a preparatory meeting on Monday, Gulf foreign ministers approved the nomination of former Kuwaiti Finance Minister Nayef Al-Hajraf as the next secretary-general of the GCC.

His term will begin in April 2020 following the end of Al-Zayani’s term.