JEDDAH: Millions of school students across Saudi Arabia are experiencing their first day education under coronavirus disease (COVID-19) regulations.
The instructions from the Ministry of Education are clear: Gatherings must be kept to a minimum, morning queues are canceled, and students will wear masks at all times.
The Kingdom’s approach has differed to education strategies adopted in other countries. Sweden never closed schools, but students over 16 were asked to stay at home. Japanese schools had students visiting schools on alternating days, so classrooms are only ever half-present.
“Morning queues were always a hassle to me, so I don’t mind them being removed. However, I will miss the gatherings, I will miss sharing my food with my friends,” Hafsa Khalid, a 14-year-old student in Jeddah, told Arab News.
After an 18-month hiatus, the ministry has enforced all precautionary measures to ensure that all students stay safe.
No extracurricular activities are taking place. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the class will be sent home and asked to quarantine for 10 days. The course will not be disrupted and will continue online. However, if two or more cases are found in different classes, the entire school will employ more distance learning.
“I am glad that the ministry is taking strict measures,” said Hada Shahid, a 36-year-old mother.
She added: “I am just glad that the children will go to their school and not stay at home. I just hope that everyone follows the precautionary measures and we never go to distance learning.”
Ahmad Filemban, a 40-year-old father of middle and high school students, told Arab News that they were looking forward to going back to school.
“I don’t think it is up to us to have an opinion about this, rules are rules. Schools are finally going to operate and that is what we should be focusing on.”
He added: “It was expected that the ministry will be taking extreme measures or else the virus will spread as it has never spread before.”
Hafsa Khan, a 14-year-old student returning to school, said: “I am excited to return to my school and make new friends. I will make sure to wear my mask and not touch surfaces and everything.”
“If we do have to quarantine, it will save me some time and let me attend classes in my pajamas, which is the only aspect of being in quarantine that I might miss,” joked Khan.
Khan’s mother Aisha said: “These are scary times so I will pray with all my will that the schools never go back to distance learning. I love my kids but taking on the role of a teacher in and out of the schools was tiring.
“It is my sincerest request to all parents that before they go into questionable locations and meet people who haven’t been careful, please think of all the children and families you will be affecting.”