JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia prepares to restart face-to-face learning in schools for children under the age of 12 years old after postponing it from October of last year.
In a press conference on Sunday, the Saudi Ministry of Education announced the re-opening of elementary and kindergarten schools starting January 23, after more than 18 months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ministry spokeswoman Ibtisam Al-Shehri said it was important for parents to prepare their children for the return to face-to-face classes.
Saudi Arabia launched an education platform Madrasati (My School) at the start of the pandemic in 2020 which was used by more than five million students across the Kingdom.
Madrasati, which has been praised by the UN in a report highlighting the success of innovative educational models during the COVID-19 pandemic, has facilitated distance learning education that allowed teachers to hold virtual classes. The platform offers students a variety of content, including presentations, educational videos and textbooks.
Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said at the press conference that although Saudi Arabia is witnessing a jump in COVID-19 cases, the number of critical cases is lower compared to the previous years. This is a result of the vaccine’s effectiveness and national efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Saudi Arabia’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 are rapidly increasing due to the omicron variant, with infections more than doubling in a week.
Online education platforms will continue for those with critical health conditions that prevent them from attending face-to-face classes.
The Ministry of Education is implementing precautionary measures in schools, such as masks, sanitizers and social distancing as part of its readiness for welcoming back the students.
The Saudi health authorities began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children between the ages of 5 and 11 late last year after the Saudi Food and Drug Authority approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine for this age group.
Saudi Arabia confirmed 3,460 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, raising the total number of cases to 578,753. One new COVID-19-related death raised the overall death toll to 8,893.
141 patients are still in critical condition. The MoH announced that 843 more patients had recovered, bringing the number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 546,614.