Saudi students back to school with a difference

 The return to the classroom comes with a price: Only students who have received both vaccine doses or recovered from a COVID-19 infection and received one jab can go back to school. (SPA)
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The return to the classroom comes with a price: Only students who have received both vaccine doses or recovered from a COVID-19 infection and received one jab can go back to school. (SPA)
A picture taken March 18, 2020 shows school buses parked in an open area after closure of schools in Riyadh amid measures to combat the novel COVID-19 coronavirus disease. (AFP)
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A picture taken March 18, 2020 shows school buses parked in an open area after closure of schools in Riyadh amid measures to combat the novel COVID-19 coronavirus disease. (AFP)
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Updated 18 August 2021

Saudi students back to school with a difference

 The return to the classroom comes with a price: Only students who have received both vaccine doses or recovered from a COVID-19 infection and received one jab can go back to school. (SPA)
  • Students are packing face masks along with books as they prepare to return to the classroom
  • "I’m trying to remember how life was before the pandemic, and I am looking forward to seeing my teachers and classmates again"

JEDDAH: Saudi students kept away from the classroom for more than 18 months due to the global pandemic are looking forward to heading back to school in a new post-COVID-19 setting.

On March 8, 2020, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Education suspended school attendance to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. Students immediately switched to online classes — a new experience that had a profound impact on the way many approached their studies, with some struggling to adapt to the dramatic change.

Only university students were able to benefit from face-to-face teaching and allowed to take their final exams amid strict health measures to curb the spread of the virus.

But with the pandemic easing, high school and middle school students are heading back to school on Aug. 29, book bags and lunch boxes in tow — and with masks and packets of sanitizers as new additions to their school requirements.

FASTFACT

With the pandemic easing, high school and middle school students are heading back to school on Aug. 29, book bags and lunch boxes in tow — and with masks and packets of sanitizers as new additions to their school requirements.

For many, excited to see their classmates and teachers in person again, the resumption of normal school life will be a relief.

But the return to the classroom comes with a price: Only students who have received both vaccine doses or recovered from a COVID-19 infection and received one jab can go back to school.

Students in elementary and preschool will not be allowed to return until herd immunity of 70 percent has been acquired through completion of doses or full immunization.

The health ministry has taken steps to ensure protection of students’ health is a top priority, while also safeguarding educational advancement.

With “No child left behind” as the ministry’s unofficial motto, authorities have worked together to make it easier for parents to register their children for the COVID-19 vaccine, and for school administrators to track and view data, including health, vaccination and infection status for students and staff, through the Tawakkalna app.

The app’s “we are learning with caution” section shows details such as the number of students and staff who have come into contact with infected individuals, the number of infected people and the number of those immunized.

Arab News spoke to several students who shared their excitement at going back to school and their struggles with distance learning.

Nad Saud Al-Quwaidi, 17, said that during the three semesters away from the classroom “information was not delivered sometimes and it was difficult to understand certain things from a distance. The Internet or sound would cut off sometimes, too.”

She added: “I miss school and my friends, and I’m excited to be going back to see my teachers. I even miss the school routine. I like to get up early, put on my school uniform, and prepare my bag and breakfast. But with distance education, I used to get lazy and was late sometimes.”

Dana Nadeem, a 14-year-old middle schooler, said that it will be “a strange experience” to go back to school life after 18 months away.

“I missed it a bit, but not as much as I expected. It’s a weird feeling going back. I’m trying to remember how life was before the pandemic, and I am looking forward to seeing my teachers and classmates again,” she said.

“I did miss preparing my bag the night before and reviewing my schedule, but I can’t say the same about wearing the uniform.”

Mohsin Ghazi, 13, said that homework, group tasks and communication were a struggle while away from school.

“At first it was hard sending the homework and communicating with my teacher from a distance. Teamwork was also challenging, especially communicating with my class team-mates,” he said.

Ghazi said that he missed his social life at school the most. “I missed hanging out with my friends during break time.”

His older sister Maha said that it is important to have an environment for learning as it reduces distractions.

“Not being in school was slightly distracting. I could understand online lessons, but it was easier when we had face-to-face meetings with peers and teachers,” she said.

Face-to-face interactions help with learning and the social aspect plays an important role in education, she added.

“Human interaction is a part of the education process,” she said. “Returning to school with new rules due to COVID-19 restrictions won’t be easy; I don’t think school will go back to normal due to social distancing.”

She added: “One thing I’m sure of is that I did not miss waking at 6 a.m. every morning.”

Maha understands that social distancing and masks will be mandatory. “However, during break time, I assume a handful of students will be sitting in groups if they have the chance. Surely for every five people, sanitizers will be our sixth groupie.”


Saudi and Iraq air forces discuss promoting joint action

Commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz meets his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Shihab Jahid Ali. (SPA)
Commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz meets his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Shihab Jahid Ali. (SPA)
Updated 18 January 2022

Saudi and Iraq air forces discuss promoting joint action

Commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz meets his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Shihab Jahid Ali. (SPA)

RIYADH: Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, the commander of the Royal Saudi Air Force, met with his Iraqi counterpart Gen. Shihab Jahid Ali during his visit to Riyadh.
During the meeting, they discussed issues of interest to the two forces and ways to promote joint action, the Kingdom’s defense ministry said on Monday.
The two sides also exchanged mementos on the occasion.
The Iraqi air force commander is scheduled to visit a number of air force units and the Saqr Aljazeera Aviation Museum during his visit.


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince condemns Houthi attack on UAE during call with Abu Dhabi counterpart

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince condemns Houthi attack on UAE during call with Abu Dhabi counterpart
Updated 6 min ago

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince condemns Houthi attack on UAE during call with Abu Dhabi counterpart

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince condemns Houthi attack on UAE during call with Abu Dhabi counterpart
  • The two leaders pledged to continue to confront the aggressive practices carried out by the Houthi militia
  • They called on the international community to stand up to these flagrant violations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a phone call to his Abu Dhabi counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, during which he condemned an attack on the UAE by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen.

The militia attacked the capital Abu Dhabi using missiles and drones, setting off explosions in fuel trucks that killed three people and injured six others and causing a fire near the airport.

And in another incident, eight explosive-laden drones were launched by the Houthis toward Saudi Arabia, all of which were intercepted.

The two leaders affirmed that these terrorist acts that targeted the Kingdom and the UAE would increase both countries’ “resolve and their determination to continue to confront those aggressive practices” carried out by the Houthi militia, who have wreaked havoc in Yemen, killing the Yemeni people and continue its “miserable and unsuccessful attempts to spread chaos” with the aim of destabilizing the region’s security and stability.

The crown princes called on the international community to stand up to these flagrant violations of international law and norms and to reject and condemn these terrorist crimes that threaten regional and international peace and security, a statement on Saudi Press Agency said.

The Saudi crown prince expressed his deepest condolences for the deceased and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

Sheikh Mohammed thanked Prince Mohammed for the sincere sentiments, which confirmed the solid ties and close bond that unite the two countries and peoples and their determination to confront terrorism.

During the call, they also discussed regional affairs and issues of common interest, the statement added.

Also on Monday, Saudi deputy minister for defense Prince Khalid bin Salman said the Houthis’ aggression against the Kingdom and UAE represented a threat to the security of the two countries and the entire region, and showed they were not interested in political solutions to the Yemeni conflict.

He added the militia had chosen an path of escalation and would bear responsibility for tampering with the future of Yemen and for its attacks on neighboring countries.

Prince Khalid urged the international community to stand up to such Houthi transgressions, including its threatening of security of international waterways, and to their regional supporter, Iran, who he said considered the region and its security as negotiating cards.

He also said Iran’s continued support of the militia with weapons and equipment through the ports of Hodeidah and Salif represented a violation of UN resolutions and international laws and norms, and called for an international effort to address it.

Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Twitter the Houthi militia's attacks against the Kingdom and UAE today constitute a threat to the region's security and stability.

The attacks also confirm that this militia has become a major source of threats to regional and international security and stability, he said.

Prince Faisal added that the Kingdom and the Coalition continue to support international efforts to bring peace to Yemen and that the Kingdom’s initiative to find a political solution to the Yemeni crisis is still on the table.

"At the same time, we are fully prepared and ready to deal with the Houthi intransigence, and to defend the security of the Kingdom and our region." he said.

State minister for foreign affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said that the Houthi militia's "cowardly terrorist attacks" against the Kingdom and UAE "are an extension of their actions that threaten the security and stability of the region and the international sea lanes".

Al-Jubeir added  that Saudi Arabia and its Coalition partners have exerted efforts to reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis, including the Saudi initiative to support the UN efforts, which were faced with the militia's rejection and intransigence.

" We are continuing these efforts and defending our security and the security of the region and sea shipping lanes, to achieve security and stability in the region and the world." he said.
 


Visitors swarm Saudi Arabia’s Jazan Honey Festival

Around 3,500 kilograms of honey were sold at last year’s festival with a total value of more than SR2 million. The event aims to support local beekeepers. (SPA)
Around 3,500 kilograms of honey were sold at last year’s festival with a total value of more than SR2 million. The event aims to support local beekeepers. (SPA)
Updated 17 January 2022

Visitors swarm Saudi Arabia’s Jazan Honey Festival

Around 3,500 kilograms of honey were sold at last year’s festival with a total value of more than SR2 million. The event aims to support local beekeepers. (SPA)
  • Event showcases the region’s tourism, economic, and investment components

JEDDAH: The seventh Jazan Honey Festival is attracting more fans in the region’s Edabi governorate, where the event is held annually.

The festival was recently launched by Jazan Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz. He was briefed upon his arrival about the festival’s activities and the accompanying events.
Local resident Dr. Mohammed Al-Ghazwani said the festival sought to introduce and showcase the region’s various agricultural, tourism, economic, and investment components, including honey.
He added that the festival, where 50 beekeepers were displaying various types of first-class natural honey, also aimed to support local beekeepers and that it had helped apiarists to invest in the region’s fertile environment to produce commercial quantities.
“The festival also helps Jazan’s honey farmers to develop packaging methods for their honey products, in light of the support and care given by the wise leadership aiming to develop the country and serve citizens and improve their well-being,” Al-Ghazwani said in a speech on behalf of locals. “Over 700 kilograms of honey have so far been sold over the last three days of the festival, worth more than SR250,000 (around $67,000).”
Around 3,500 kilograms of honey were sold at last year’s festival with a total value of more than SR2 million.

HIGHLIGHT

The festival was recently launched by Jazan Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz. He was briefed upon his arrival about the festival’s activities and the accompanying events.

A local visitor to the festival, Mohammed Hassan Hakami, told Arab News that the region could produce different types of honey including sidr, which was a well-liked and popular variety in the Kingdom.
“In the region, we also have other honey types, such as Al-Qatad, Al-Majra, Al-Samrah, and Al-Shawkah. We also have different types of fine beeswax,” Hakami said.
He bought 2 kilograms of sidr tree honey and expressed his confidence that the festival’s organizers would not allow low-quality honey to be put on sale.
Honeybee expert Faiz Al-Quthami said that Salam honey could not be produced anywhere else but Jazan.
“Jazan is the best region for producing bees, honey, and beeswax. The region also has mangrove honey, which is higher in medicinal and nutritional value than any other type of honey. However, many beekeepers pay less attention to this type of honey,” he said.
Al-Quthami said that some types of honey were more expensive than others simply because of the shortage of the produced quantities.
He said that Majra honey, for example, was produced in small batches due to its short season but that this factor justified its high prices when compared to those of sidr tree honey.
“Sidr honey is very popular in Saudi Arabia for its fine quality, availability, and reasonable price. Based on scientific research and studies, however, Al-Samar honey is the second-best honey after that of the mangrove shrubs.”


Saudi law of elderly is based on country’s customs and traditions

Saad Al-Hammad, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. (Supplied)
Saad Al-Hammad, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. (Supplied)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi law of elderly is based on country’s customs and traditions

Saad Al-Hammad, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. (Supplied)
  • Legislation will give the elderly ‘priority in services and investing their skills in a variety of fields’

RIYADH: It is important to ensure social protection for elderly people — be it quality of life, providing assistance, or investing their skills in various fields. Society, however, must know that these rights are part of Saudi Arabia’s social norms and traditions.

The Saudi Cabinet approved a new law to protect the rights of elderly citizens in the Kingdom earlier this month.
Saad Al-Hammad, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said: “The new law strengthens the position of the elderly in society and is based on our customs and traditions, by giving the elderly priority in services and waiting areas and investing their skills in a variety of fields.”
This legislation, says Al-Hammad, grants the elderly special privileges and preserves their social, financial, and legal rights. It also sets harsh penalties, such as fines and imprisonment, for those who abuse the elderly, be they elderly individuals themselves or the private and government institutions that provide services to them.

HIGHLIGHT

This legislation, according to official, grants the elderly special privileges and preserves their social, financial, and legal rights.

He noted that the elderly have the right to choose to live with their families, and that sheltering in care homes depends on the situation of the elderly and what serves the public interest.

According to a UN report, those aged 65 and over made up around 3.4 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population. (Supplied)

“National centers are part of the transformation work in the elderly services, with the goal of achieving well-being and social integration for them, improving their status, and assisting families in providing care services for those who need them,” Al-Hammad explained.
According to Article 8 of the law, if a provider is unable to support the elderly financially, and no one in the elderly’s family can support them either, the ministry shall support them financially, according to what is specified by the regulation.
The ministry is obligated to enable the elderly to live in an environment that preserves their rights and dignity, and spreads awareness to clarify their rights. The ministry is also responsible for providing reliable statistical data about the elderly, which will benefit researchers in conducting studies and research.
The law also requires the ministry to organize and implement appropriate programs for the elderly, improve their skills, experiences, and hobbies, enhance their integration into society, encourage able-bodied elderly people to work, support their employers and promote volunteering activities serving the elderly.
The ministry must rehabilitate public and commercial facilities, residential neighborhoods, the surrounding environment, and mosques to ensure they are suitable for the needs of the elderly. They must also allocate places for the elderly in public facilities and at public events and urge the private sector, business owners, and civil bodies to care for them.
Government agencies should prioritize the elderly seeking basic services, particularly health and social services.
The ministry must also grant the elderly a privilege card that allows them to benefit from the public services to meet the necessities of their daily lives.
According to a UN report, those aged 65 and over made up around 3.4 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population, a figure it predicted could reach 6 percent by 2030.
Eng. Badr Al-Eyada, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Elderly Support Organization, stressed that it conducted a study on the situation of elderly care and launched a guide to services for the elderly. The guide presents services and facilities provided by the governmental, private, and civil sectors in 13 regions of the Kingdom.
Al-Eyada said his organization established and operated the first telephone consultation unit for the elderly in the Kingdom, which reflects its dedication to programs to facilitate telephone consultations for the medical, psychological, social, and legal needs of elderly people across the Kingdom.
He added that the approved law would provide the elderly with the care, attention, and protection they deserve, and helps ensure social security for the elderly, whilst significantly raising awareness of this group’s rights.


Amateur Saudi truck driver steals spotlight at Dakar Rally in viral video

Mishal Al-Shlowi, from Taif, left, said that he is a big fan of the Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
Mishal Al-Shlowi, from Taif, left, said that he is a big fan of the Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
Updated 17 January 2022

Amateur Saudi truck driver steals spotlight at Dakar Rally in viral video

Mishal Al-Shlowi, from Taif, left, said that he is a big fan of the Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
  • Yazeed Al-Rajhi himself commented on the viral video, and said: “The rally car that appeared in the viral video is an old classic car

JEDDAH: A video shot at the Dakar Rally has gone viral after appearing to show a pickup truck outperforming other vehicles in the race.
The video features a Nissan Datsun 2015 model, whose driver outperforms a Belgium racer.
But the video was a practical joke played by 24-year-old Saudi driver Mishal Al-Schlowi, who through cunning camera angles and ingenuity, staged the whole thing.
Al-Shlowi was driving parallel to the Belgian, but off the track, giving him an advantage.
The video received a large number of reactions on social media after it went viral on Twitter.
It was shot by one of the helicopter videographers who usually follow the rally racers.
Al-Shlowi, from Taif, told Arab News that he is a big fan of the rally.
“On Friday morning, I was driving at an approximate speed of 110 to 120 kilometers per hour. Once we saw the Belgium racer on the road, me and my friend next to me became super excited,” he said.
“The videographer in the helicopter gave us some signs to go ahead once we started to drive in a parallel track, and his signs gave me the courage to go faster and outperform the racer.”
The adventurous driver said that he was cautious and aware of what he was doing. “I was driving on the other side of the main rally track to avoid any sudden accidents.”
Al-Shlowi added that before he completed the stunt, he was on his way to check on nearby livestock. He praised the efforts of the organizers in informing local farmers of the race, so as to avoid accidents.
“I drive in off-road areas, about 50 kilometers per day, to reach my college in Taif city. I know how to deal with difficult landforms very well,” he said.
One of Al-Shlowi’s dreams is to take part in the Dakar Rally, but he said that it is very costly. “My biggest role model in the race is our amazing champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi. I wish to be part of upcoming Dakar rallies,” he added.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi himself commented on the viral video, and said: “The rally car that appeared in the viral video is an old classic car. It has a different route than the main one. Usually, it is for amateur first-time participants.”
Another well-known Saudi car enthusiast, Hasan Kutbi, shared the video in a tweet with a funny comment: “The Datsun driver announces winning the race, and he demands an award as well.”
Dakar Rally 2022 marked its third edition in Saudi Arabia and the 44th in history on Jan. 1. The race ended on Jan 14.
Qatari racer Nasser Al-Attiyah won first place, while Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi placed third for his first Dakar podium finish in his eighth attempt.
The event is considered one of the most prestigious and challenging in the world of motor sports. This year’s edition was the largest in terms of participation, drawing 650 racers from more than 70 countries around the world.
It included 430 vehicles across all race categories. The Dakar Classic category included 148 vehicles designed before 2000, as well as vintage cars and trucks.