Saudi Arabia to expedite repatriation of distressed Filipino workers

Saudi Arabia remains a top destination for overseas Filipino workers. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 26 December 2019

Saudi Arabia to expedite repatriation of distressed Filipino workers

  • Filipinos receive care packages, financial help
  • Presidential aide assessing the situation

MANILA: Saudi Arabia is to expedite the repatriation of almost 200 distressed Filipino workers following a meeting between high-level officials on both sides.

The workers, who are mostly domestic helpers, are at the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah while their cases are being processed. Most of their cases involve the non-payment of salaries.

A request for help was made during a meeting on Dec. 21 between Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje and Mohammad Ibrahim Jalal, the Saudi Social Welfare Administration’s (SSWA) director-general from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development for Makkah Al-Mukarramah Region.

Also present was Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola, who asked for the cases to be fast-tracked.

The two sides underscored the importance of close cooperation, agreeing to increase collaboration to help the distressed workers.

Philippine officials also met the distressed workers, who received care packages and financial assistance from the president and the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

Borje expressed President Rodrigo Duterte’s gratitude to Saudi officials for their commitment to helping Filipinos facing problems in the Kingdom.

“The president’s representative is on an assistance-to-nationals mission in the Middle East and North Africa to assess the conditions of Filipinos there,” the presidential palace said. 

Under current arrangements recruitment agencies facilitate the papers of workers with labor disputes and other problems. They also make referrals to the SSWA to speed up case processing.

Borje has visited Tunisia as part of his three-nation tour. He is also in Saudi Arabia to assess the conditions of Filipinos in the Kingdom. He proceeds to Bahrain to complete his mission.

The Philippines Statistics Authority said earlier this year that Saudi Arabia remained a top destination for overseas Filipino workers.

Kids going stir-crazy in isolation? Here’s how to keep them occupied

Updated 10 April 2020

Kids going stir-crazy in isolation? Here’s how to keep them occupied

  • Saudi mothers relate challenges in keeping their children from getting bored amid nationwide lockdown

RIYADH: School’s out for the foreseeable future, but every child’s dream is every mother’s worst nightmare. With nowhere else to go during the day, and most entertainment venues in the city cordoned off, mothers are discussing how the crisis has affected them, and more importantly, what they’re doing to control it.

Dr. Marwa Elagra, an assistant professor at REU, told Arab News about how she and her three children (4th grade, 1st grade, and nursery) were coping with the new social distancing policy and the challenges it posed for their education.

“In the beginning, during the first few days, their schools weren’t yet prepared for the sudden shutdown. It took them almost a week to prepare themselves,” she said.

Despite a somewhat bumpy beginning, things are starting to pick up. 

“They have virtual classes now, and interactive livestreaming with a certain schedule. They can follow up with their teachers, just like in a real classroom. They also send videos that students can watch at any time,” she said.

However, she struggles with getting the children out of “vacation mode,” and convincing them that they still need to study.

“That’s the main challenge in all of this. It’s quite difficult to control the kids around the house, especially since you can’t take them out. They’re jumping around all over the place. They’re doing their homework, but their brains just aren’t in the zone for it,” she said.

They (children) have virtual classes now, and interactive livestreaming with a certain schedule. They can follow up with their teachers, just like in a real classroom. They also send videos that students can watch at any time.

Dr. Marwa Elagra, assistant professor

She hopes that things return to normal soon, or at the very least that a clear plan for the future will emerge after the proposed isolation period is up.

“I hope it doesn’t last for long, especially for primary classes. It is difficult to continue online; they need to interact with their teachers. It is a great pressure on us as moms, we can’t fulfill the role of teachers who are more experienced with children. I am in the academic field myself but I don’t have experience with kids,” she said.

She also has concerns about what these decisions could mean for her children’s academic future and hopes everything will be resolved soon.

“Are they going to give the kids exams or they will end school without them and just count the first term results? Are they going to stop and continue earlier at the beginning of the next academic year? This unclear vision of what will happen is creating the panic between most moms,” she said.

She also has advice for mothers going through the same thing. 

“Have more patience, support and encourage your kids to do more reading, and not only academic reading. Look at the positive side and make use of this long vacation in increasing the knowledge and skills of your kids,” she said.

Dr. May Al-Khudhairy, dean of the College of Applied Medical Sciences at Riyadh Elm University, is making the most of the time she is spending at home with her four children.

“I love having them home because during the week they get home so late that I don’t spend enough quality time with them. I’m even reconsidering all their after-school activities. I’ve forgotten how this time is precious and we need to savor it as long as possible,” she said.

With colleges across the country closed until further notice, Al-Khudhairy is also working from home, a situation that makes it easier to supervise her children and make sure their schoolwork gets done. 

“We sit outdoors and work parallel. The older kids will do their school assignments, and the youngest does her simple Pre-K activities that I find online, from sites like Storynory and Pinterest,” she said.

She recommends that mothers try to keep children occupied with tasks that can be both informative and entertaining. 

“We bake brownies and cupcakes and do experiments, like creating slime at home. Anything to keep busy. They paint, and every day they change it around. And of course, we wash our hands a zillion times a day,” she said.