TheFace: Mona Al-Turief, Saudi educator

Mona Al-Turief with her family. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Updated 17 January 2020

TheFace: Mona Al-Turief, Saudi educator

  • I seek to base my relationship with my children on love and understanding
  • Being an educator taught me that there was always space for me to learn something new

I was born and raised in Al-Malaz in Riyadh, where I studied at a public school until the sixth grade, when my family decided to move to Unaizah.

I continued to perform well academically due to my parents’ dedication toward my educational endeavors. My father, may God have mercy upon him, instilled two prominent values in me: Commitment and responsibility. These principles have affected every aspect of my life, especially as the youngest child in a conservative Najdi home.

Surrounded by my older siblings, my childhood was shaped by the multitude of lessons that I learned from them.

My love for children began when I watched my siblings’ kids fill our home with love and energy – a huge part of my adolescence went into taking care of my nieces and nephews.

It made me confident in my ability to deal with children, knowing how to win them over and guide them, which I later put to the test when I finished high school, returning to Riyadh to major in early childhood studies at King Saud University, ultimately graduating with honors.

Following my graduation, I got married and kick-started my professional career as a kindergarten teacher in different private preschools in Riyadh.

Within a few years, I was working as a teacher at Kingdom Schools, dropping my eldest daughter off at the school’s nursery each morning to go and tutor other people’s kids across campus. Over the next seven years, I was blessed with the birth of my three other children.

After years of being simultaneously a mother and a teacher, I decided to put a pause to my career and concentrated on raising my children. This decision was a product of my strong belief in investing in humans through dedicating time and effort toward raising well-mannered individuals and building stronger familial bonds.

Being an educator taught me that there was always space for me to learn something new. I learned a lot from my children, particularly as I remained involved in their school and extracurricular activities, and collaboratively navigated their interests and hobbies.

My prior knowledge of child-nurturing practices helped me form a unique relationship with my kids. The bond between parents and children grows stronger, I found, when parents acknowledge that they are role models and remain aware of their behavior and manners at all times.

Furthermore, it is crucial that parents avoid three harmful, yet common, practices: Criticism, comparison, and blame. These create toxic environments that negatively impact a child’s confidence, sense of self, and self-esteem.

I try to be considerate of my children’s feelings by avoiding harsh or public criticism and focusing on their personal progress, only comparing them with their own selves. If they face a difficult situation, instead of blaming them for it, I encourage them to think about the moral behind the incident and discuss takeaways to be implemented in the future.

I seek to base my relationship with my children on love and understanding by spending a lot of quality time with them and considering their diverse personalities, especially as I returned to the workplace as a school principal and subsequently, an academic supervisor at the Ministry of Education. Those quality times are what remains in a child’s subconscious in the long run.

Later, while pursuing my master’s degree in gifted education at the Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain, I learned about the importance of enriching my children’s interests, whether through helping them explore playing a new instrument, enrolling them in dance courses and soccer academies, presenting them with a book on their to-read list, or accompanying them on outdoor activities.

Sharing these experiences opened new doors for all of us. When my eldest daughter went through the college application process, where she is now pursuing a degree in geology at Brown University, in the US, she opened my eyes to the required preparation for her younger siblings.

By the time they reach her age, they would be prepared with the requirements for applying to esteemed institutions, if they decide to follow a similar path.

Encouraging my older son to follow his passion for the outdoors, through hiking around scenic Saudi nature areas with him, resulted in him climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, at the age of 14.

Our trips exposed me to the beauty of my country, where I visited fascinating historical and natural sites, had meaningful conversations, and gained valuable friendships.

I was motivated to contribute to the positive changes taking place in the Kingdom by sharing these momentous experiences with others.

That is why I decided to begin the process of acquiring a tourist guide license from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. That in turn gave me a chance to solidify my knowledge of my country and, at the same time, share that beauty with the rest of the world via my podcast, Dharf Makan, and my Instagram account (@mona.alturief).


Turning a new leaf: Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region ditches qat crops for coffee trees

The growth of the educational landscape in the region, in addition to the success of the coffee industry, are some factors that help the authorities combat qat abuse. (SPA/Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Turning a new leaf: Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region ditches qat crops for coffee trees

  • The Khawlani coffee bean is being offered to UNESCO for inclusion on a heritage list

JAZAN: Efforts to draw the younger generation in the Kingdom’s Jazan region away from the harmful and addictive substance qat are succeeding, with even the crop being replaced by coffee trees to support the booming coffee business.
Qat, a plant that is native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, is a stimulant that triggers excitement and alertness. But it can also cause anxiety, insomnia and aggravate pre-existing mental health conditions.
It grew in the Jazan region along with coffee trees. But the strength of the coffee industry, combined with an increased awareness about the harmful nature of qat, has led to its gradual disappearance.
The governor of Al-Dayer, Nayef bin Lebdah, said the people of Jazan were proud of the Khawlani coffee bean. He also said that coffee beans were much more economically beneficial than qat.
“All newly planted qat trees have been completely uprooted,” he told Arab News. “All the people have found that planting coffee beans is much more feasible and rewarding than qat. Attempts to smuggle qat have also dropped thanks to the security efforts along the border with Yemen. Add to that, young people themselves have concluded that their future will be in coffee beans.”
Teacher Yahiya Shareef Al-Maliki viewed qat as an “intruder’’ and said the coffee tree was the region’s indigenous product.
“In 1970, there were only four people who used to chew qat in the entire governorate,” he told Arab News. “It then started to become common among the people here in 1995 due to opening the borders that caused importing qat from abroad.”

FASTFACTS

• In 2014, people reconsidered coffee as an alternative crop and young people started to grow coffee beans with the help of unlimited support from the governorate.

• Some 50,000 seedlings were distributed and farmers began to restore the profession of their fathers.

• The governorate replanted more than 10,000 genuine Khawlani coffee seedlings and gave them to the farmers.

The increase in qat cultivation affected the planting of coffee beans, he added, but in 2014 people reconsidered coffee as an alternative crop and young people started to grow coffee beans with the help of unlimited support from the governorate. “Some 50,000 seedlings were distributed and farmers began to restore the profession of their fathers.”
People in Jazan used to waste their time and money on qat, he said. They would gather and chew qat for many hours, he added, hours that could have been spent working. But the growth of the educational landscape in the region, in addition to the success of the coffee industry, was a factor in combating qat abuse, as young people were able to access more opportunities and improve their prospects.
The Khawlani coffee bean is being offered to UNESCO for inclusion on a heritage list.
“The preparation of the file related to the skills and knowledge pertaining to the cultivation of Khawlani coffee in the Jazan region has been completed before presenting it to UNESCO,” the Kingdom’s Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah said. If listed, he added, it would be the Kingdom’s fourth intangible cultural heritage and eighth among the total heritage items included in the UNESCO heritage list.
Saudi columnist Hamood Abu Talib said the Jazan region was the only place the beans were grown. “This festival (Coffee Beans Festival), which is being held in collaboration with the governorate (of Jazan), the farmers themselves and Aramco, is an important national economic investment,” he told Arab News.
“Many countries’ economies, such as Brazil and Ethiopia depend mainly on this product — coffee. It needs professional marketing through the media to attract visitors from inside and outside the Kingdom. This is an essential strategic transformation.
“We know that the Faifa Mountains Development and Reconstruction Authority’s strategic goal was to uproot the harmful trees of qat and replace them with profitable crops that are beneficial to the farmers as well as the whole region. These were also intruding, invasive trees. We replanted more than 10,000 genuine Khawlani coffee seedlings and gave them to the farmers.”