Saudi parents welcome possible schools reopening but concerns remain

Saudi parents welcome possible schools reopening but concerns remain
In the wake of the pandemic, the Saudi authorities swiftly launched programs like the Madrasati platform, 33 educational TV channels, lesson channels on YouTube and the national education platform Ain. (SPA)
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Updated 06 April 2021

Saudi parents welcome possible schools reopening but concerns remain

Saudi parents welcome possible schools reopening but concerns remain
  • Education minister unveils plans to vaccinate all school staff, raising hopes that in-person learning can resume in August

JEDDAH: After a year of coping with the challenges created by distance learning, many parents in Saudi Arabia breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday as hopes grew that their children will soon be able to return to full-time in-person classes.

Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh announced a schedule for all school staff, at all levels, to receive COVID-19 vaccinations before the start of the next school semester in August. This is in keeping with announcements by other Saudi ministries and organizations that have requested their staff to get vaccinated in preparation for a return to normal daily life.
Though there has yet to be an official announcement of schools reopening, many of the parents Arab News spoke to saw the education minister’s statement as a hopeful sign that children will be able to return to in-person lessons in August. However, some are still concerned about the possible health risks of this and said they will need more information.
Wesam Abdullatif, a mother of two middle-school pupils in Jeddah, told Arab News that the prospect of them being able to return to school is very welcome as it has been difficult to juggle the demands of her 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. job and the requirements of their online school work.
“My daughters start school early in the day and have their heads on straight when it comes to their education but I am thankful that there’s a good chance they could be going back after school staff get their vaccinations,” she said.
“But the COVID-19 threat still looms,” she added, and said that she and her husband have conflicting emotions.

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On Monday, the Ministry of Education announced that it is launching an updated version of its Madrasati (my school) platform for early childhood learning.

“My daughters are old enough and smart enough to know what to do,” said Abdullatif. “They practice safe social distancing now as if it’s a natural thing, as their father and I have made it very clear what the implications are if they’re not safe. But we also want to make sure that they will continue to be safe at school, too.”
But she added: “We have to go back to our normal lives again and this is a good start.”
Stay-at-home mom Shaza Nazer, from Jeddah, said her five-year-old son, Suraqa, started school this year and she has been doing her best to help him with distance learning. She admitted that there have been some limitations and challenges but added that overall she has been impressed with the efforts of teachers and they deserve praise and great respect for the good job they are doing.
“I’ve enrolled him a little later than other kids but I’ve always made sure that there was a lesson incorporated in his day,” she told Arab News. “Whether it was learning numbers or letters, for example, or games that require a bit of his attention, I tried my best to do that — and Suraqa is a good boy and loves to learn.
“It wasn’t much of a tough semester for Suraqa as it is his first time attending a school. I think because he’s willing to learn and is still young he can listen to his teachers and follow the class, up to a limit.
“But there’s nothing like in-person schooling. If we reach herd immunity and the staff at his school are all inoculated then, yes, I will be sending him off.”
Nazer added that although her son seems to be enjoying and coping well with distance learning, interaction with other children is much better. She said she sees, for example, how animated and excited he is when he is able to join a few classmates for a play date every few days.
This sentiment is shared by Mashael Al-Mintakh, from Jeddah, who said her three-year-old son, Yousef, is at a key stage in his development, when it is important he enjoys the benefits of being a child and learns to make friends and play with them in person. However she still has concerns about the possible health risks of in-person classes.

We have to go back to our normal lives again and this is a good start.

Wesam Abdullatif

“If I don’t feel safe then I’d rather keep my child at home, and since I am a stay-at-home mom it wouldn’t be an issue anyway,” she told Arab News.
On Monday, the Ministry of Education announced that it is launching an updated version of its Madrasati (my school) platform for early childhood learning. Introduced last August, the distance learning platform allows teachers to create virtual classes and offers a wide variety of content including presentations, videos, textbooks and exercises for pupils at all levels.
“Schools and teachers getting the vaccine jabs is important for everyone to feel safe enough to send their children off but an online platform such as Madrasati could give the option for mothers to keep their children at home,” Al-Mintakh added.


Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases
Updated 8 min 47 sec ago

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,086 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 468

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 11 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,869.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,055 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 409,093 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,776 remain active and 1,182 in critical condition.

According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 468, followed by Makkah with 206, the Eastern Province with 166, Madinah recorded 41, and Asir confirmed 35 cases.
The ministry also announced that 1,086 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 392,448.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 144 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.07 million.


King Salman heads Saudi delegation to US-hosted leaders’ virtual summit on climate

King Salman heads Saudi delegation to US-hosted leaders’ virtual summit on climate
Updated 22 April 2021

King Salman heads Saudi delegation to US-hosted leaders’ virtual summit on climate

King Salman heads Saudi delegation to US-hosted leaders’ virtual summit on climate
  • The King’s participation reaffirms Saudi’s commitment to face climate change
  • The virtual summit will be live streamed for public viewing

DUBAI: King Salman will head Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate being hosted by the US, state news agency SPA reported on Thursday.
American President Joe Biden invitation to 40 world leaders for climate talks, which happens on April 22 and 23, follows on his announcement shortly after his January inauguration that he would convene a leaders summit to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.
The virtual summit will be live streamed for public viewing, the White House website has announced.
The King’s participation reaffirms Saudi’s commitment to face climate change and is an extension of the earlier announced Green Saudi Arabia and Green Middle East initiatives, SPA reported.


New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador
Updated 22 April 2021

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

RIYADH: Einas Al-Shahwan, the Kingdom’s ambassador-designate to Sweden, has become Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador.
During a virtual meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Al-Shahwan was among a number of newly appointed ambassadors taking their oath.

The oaths were taken in front of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

The ceremony was also attended by Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan became the first female ambassador when she was named the Saudi envoy to the US in 2019. 
In Oct. 2020, Amal Al-Mouallami was appointed as Saudi ambassador to Norway.

Below is a complete list of the new appointments:

The ambassador-designate to the Republic of Portugal, Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen bin Abdulaziz;
the ambassador-designate to Sweden Einas bint Ahmed Al-Shahwan;
the ambassador-designate to the Sultanate of Oman, Abdullah bin Saud Al-Anzi;
the ambassador-designate to the Czech Republic, Abdullah bin Mutaab Al-Rasheed;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Korea, Sami bin Muhammad Al-Sadhan;
the ambassador-designate to Turkmenistan, Saeed bin Othman Suwaied;
the ambassador-designate to the United Republic of the Comoros, Atallah bin Zayed bin Zayed;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Tajikistan Walid bin Abdulrahman al-Rashidan;
the ambassador-designate to the Kyrgyz Republic Ibrahim bin Radi Al-Radi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Albania, Faisal bin Ghazi Hafzi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Kenya Khalid bin Abdullah Al Salman;
the ambassador-designate to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Faisal bin Talq Al-Baqami;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Cuba Faisal bin Falah Al-Harbi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Chad Amer Bin Ali Al-Shahri;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Burkina Faso Fahd bin Abdulrahman Al-Dossary.

The oaths were taken in front of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season
Updated 22 April 2021

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season
  • The two companies are aiming to host 170,000 cruise guests this winter

JEDDAH: Saudi Cruise Co., owned by the Public Investment Fund, signed a joint agreement on Wednesday with MSC Cruises to launch its trips in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf during the upcoming winter season.
The announcement came during a meeting between Fawaz Farooqui, interim CEO of the Red Sea Cruise Co., and Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, in Riyadh to sign the framework agreement to mark the start of the new partnership.
The two companies are aiming to host 170,000 cruise guests this winter.
Under the agreement, the MSC Magnifica will sail in the Red Sea from Jeddah on several seven-day trips from Nov. 13 through March 26. These trips will offer passengers access to a selection of ports and destinations on the coasts of the Red Sea. A weekly stopover will be included at Al-Wajh Port, which will connect passengers with AlUla, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The city of Jeddah is preparing for the first Formula 1 race hosted by the Kingdom on Dec. 5. These trips will provide an opportunity for some passengers of the MSC Magnifica to enjoy this global sports event in conjunction with their trips aboard the cruise.
MSC Magnifica will visit Dammam on a weekly basis from Dec. 2 through March 24, as part of its winter program in the Arabian Gulf. This trip will allow passengers to visit the Al-Ahsa Oasis, another UNESCO World Heritage site in the Kingdom, in addition to many exciting destinations and attractions in the region.
Farooqui said his company is keen to establish a long-term partnership, which will increase the number of cruises coming to Saudi Arabia in the future.
“The Kingdom has a lot to offer to its visitors, and the new cooperation will open the doors for travelers from all over the world to be among the first to have the opportunity to explore the rich Saudi heritage and hospitality,” he said.
Farooqui also said these trips will diversify the Saudi economy and increase the country’s GDP. In addition, the cruises will provide employment opportunities in the fields of port business, tourism and entertainment in the selected destinations to nearby communities.
By the year 2035, the company aims to create 50,000 direct and indirect job opportunities through the newly established cruise sector.
Vago said he wants his company to place Saudi Arabia on the global cruise map and make it a major tourist destination.
“We look forward to providing new experiences for tourists from within and outside the Kingdom, enabling them to discover the beauty of untouched islands, the picturesque beaches along the Saudi coasts, in addition to the historical and heritage sites scattered in many tourist destinations,” he said.


Saudi travel ban to remain on 20 countries when flights resume May 17

Saudi travel ban to remain on 20 countries when flights resume May 17
Updated 22 April 2021

Saudi travel ban to remain on 20 countries when flights resume May 17

Saudi travel ban to remain on 20 countries when flights resume May 17
  • The banned countries are Argentina, the UAE, Germany, the US, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Portugal, the UK, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Lebanon, Egypt, India and Japan

JEDDAH: The resumption of international flights at 1 a.m. on May 17 will exclude the 20 countries where the ban on flights continues as part of preventive measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), said Saudia airline.
The banned countries, named by the Ministry of Interior, are: Argentina, the UAE, Germany, the US, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Portugal, the UK, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Lebanon, Egypt, India and Japan.
The clarification came in response to a citizen’s query about whether the travel suspensions will continue.
Noncitizens, diplomats, health practitioners and their families traveling from the listed countries have been denied entry to the Kingdom since Feb. 3. The ban applies to arriving passengers who have passed through any of the prohibited countries in the 14 days prior to their application to enter the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Education employees who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are to be identified and put on a list, Saudi online newspaper Ajel reported.
The decision is part of official efforts to ensure a swift return to normal schooling, while safeguarding the health and safety of students and staff.
Education Minister Hamad Al-Asheikh previously called on ministry employees to arrange for vaccination in time for the start of the coming academic year.
Saudi authorities on Wednesday reported 12 additional deaths related to COVID-19. The death toll now stands at 6,858. The Ministry of Health reported 1,028 new cases, meaning that 408,038 people have contracted the disease, of which 9,818 remain active.
It said 431 of the new cases were in Riyadh, 220 in Makkah, 157 in the Eastern Province and 45 in Madinah. Another 824 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries to 391,362.
Saudi Arabia has conducted 16,352,116 PCR tests, including 58,507 in the previous 24 hours.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Saudis and expats in the Kingdom continue to receive coronavirus vaccine shots, with 7,537,798 people having been inoculated so far.