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 reopening 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 5 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.
578,753 Total cases
141 Critical cases
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, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 578,753.
It also confirmed one new COVID-19-related death, bringing the Kingdom’s death toll to 8,893.
The Ministry of Health said that of the current cases, 141 remain in critical condition.
It added that 843 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 546,614.
More than 52.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign began, with more than 23.3 million people fully vaccinated.
The ministry, which has 587 vaccine centers throughout the Kingdom, urged people who have not yet received a jab to register to receive one through its Sehhaty app.
It also renewed calls for the public to adhere to precautionary measures.
Meanwhile, testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have helped millions of people since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or mild symptoms, or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for either service can be made using the Sehhaty app.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom recorded 27,742 COVID-19 violations in one week, as authorities continued their monitoring campaigns to ensure compliance with precautionary measures imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Interior Ministry statistics showed that the Riyadh region had the highest number of violations with 8,846, followed by Madinah with 3,760, the Eastern Province with 3,297, Makkah with 3,079, Jazan with 1,951, Qassim with 1,437, Jouf with 1,026, Hail with 989, Baha with 915, the Northern Borders region with 754, Asir with 681, Tabuk with 544, and Najran with 463.
The ministry called on people to follow the COVID-19 preventive protocols and instructions issued by authorities.
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A century ago, the autonomous sheikhdom of Arabistan was absorbed by force into the Persian state. Today the Arabs of Ahwaz are Iran's most persecuted minority
Saudi and British ministers discuss developing cooperation
Updated 15 sec ago
LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji held talks with British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly, via video conference.
During the meeting, they reviewed aspects of cooperation between the two kingdoms and ways to enhance and develop them in all fields, in addition to discussing regional and international developments and the importance of strengthening joint coordination.
Cleverly also held a phone call with the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, to discuss developments in the Yemeni crisis and the efforts made to establish security and peace in Yemen, and the region in general.
The call comes a day after Cleverly and Al-Jaber met in person on the sidelines of a UK-hosted conference on Yemen, with senior representatives from the UAE, Oman, the US and the UN.
137,000 Saudis benefit from tourism sector human capital development initiative
The initiative helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills
The Ministry of Tourism will launch more quality training and education programs this year
Updated 12 min 27 sec ago
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism hosted an event on Wednesday to celebrate its Your Future is Tourism education and training initiative, as part of its human capital development strategy for the tourism sector.
The participants included leaders from the public and private sectors, along with some of the initiative’s beneficiaries, who shared their stories to help motivate and inspire the young people who will be the future leaders of the sector in the Kingdom.
The initiative, launched by the ministry last year, has so far benefited about 137,000 employees and job seekers, and helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills. About 226,000 people have registered with the digital educational platform since launch.
“We have a strategic goal in the Ministry of Tourism, which is to attract the largest number of Saudi men and women to work in the tourism sector and qualify them in the best possible way,” said Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
“Yesterday, we celebrated the success of the Your Future is Tourism initiative in 2021, and about 137,000 Saudis benefited from it, but the future will be much better and more beautiful,” he added in a message posted on Twitter on Thursday.
With the aim of enabling national competencies in the tourism sector, get to know more about the your future is tourism. pic.twitter.com/OAMGMgPbIX
Mohammed Bushnag, the deputy minister for human capital at the Ministry of Tourism, said that the ministry is working to develop the capabilities of local human capital in the sector, and that investing in future generations contributes to the development of competency and diverse skills within the tourism industry, which is a major provider of jobs worldwide. He also stressed the importance of motivating employees and job seekers to take advantage of the quality training and education programs that the ministry will launch this year.
The Saudi cabinet recently approved plans for establishing a global tourism academy, in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization, that will provide professional academic programs that support those working in the local and international tourism sectors, and develop national competencies to compete globally.
How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia
Culture of consumerism in GCC countries has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable
“Circular economy” opens up huge opportunities for Saudis to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste they generate
Updated 28 January 2022
Rawan Radwan JEDDAH: As is the case in many other parts of the world, a combination of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion has not only increased personal consumption across the Middle East but is also generating colossal amounts of waste.
Five Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait — rank in the top 10 worldwide in terms of per capita generation of solid waste.
Thanks to their oil wealth, consumer spending in these countries has grown over recent decades to become a key driver of domestic economies. But as in many advanced countries, a culture of consumerism has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable and extremely harmful to the environment.
Saudi Arabia alone produces about 15 million tons of garbage a year, 95 percent of which ends up as landfill, polluting the soil and releasing greenhouse gases, including methane, into the atmosphere for decades.
What is not buried often ends up as litter on city streets, in the form of discarded polythene bags, fast-food containers, plastic bottles and empty soda cans.
Between the start of 2020 and the first half of 2021, Saudi Arabia recycled only 5 percent of its total waste, including plastic, metal and paper.
To reduce waste generation, protect fragile ecosystems and make the most of reusable materials, Saudi Arabia can rely on the “circular economy” concept, a closed-loop system that involves the 3-R approach: Reduce, reuse and recycle.
The leading agent of change in this effort is the Saudi Investment Recycling Company, which was established in 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund.
* Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade.
* Only 12 percent of plastic is incinerated worldwide.
SIRC seeks to divert 85 percent of hazardous industrial waste, 100 percent of solid waste, and 60 percent of construction and demolition waste away from landfills by 2035. The only types of waste not covered by its remit is that created by the military and nuclear energy, both of which are handled by specialist organizations.
The circular economy model opens up huge opportunities, whether in terms of products, energy creation or services, which can make a major contribution to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil and its derivatives, in line with the aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms strategy.
Saudi Arabia aims to invest almost SR24 billion ($6.4 billion) in the recycling of waste by 2035 as it attempts to switch to a more sustainable waste-management system. It will invest about SR1.3 billion in construction and demolition waste, and about SR900 million in industrial waste. Investments in municipal solid waste will exceed SR20 billion, while investments in other types of waste will amount to more than SR1.6 billion.
There are several ways to create value in a circular economy. One of them is “waste-to-energy,” which involves drying and incinerating garbage, raw sewage and industrial sludge to power steam turbines.
Burning waste produces carbon dioxide but leaving it to decompose in landfill sites results in 20 to 40 times the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions, in the form of methane, over a period of many years.
Unsurprisingly, the circular economy approach is catching on. In 2020, when Saudi Arabia held the presidency of the G20, the Kingdom proposed to allies the concept of a circular carbon economy as a means of mitigating the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere.
But a circular economy model cannot succeed without the active involvement of big companies, small-business entrepreneurs and the general public.
Experts say that the construction of recycling facilities in the Kingdom is only part of the solution; it must go hand in hand with efforts to instill in the Saudi population a culture of household recycling and responsible consumption.
“We have to invest in the infrastructure but, equally, we have to provide education and create outreach programs,” Ziyad Al-Shiha, the CEO of SIRC, told Arab News in October. “Once we achieve 25-35 percent recycling, we can say to the public: ‘Look, this is your effort and this is the result that we’re bringing back to you.’”
TIMELINE OF SAUDI ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS
2016: Launch of Saudi Vision 2030.
2017: National Renewable Energy Program announced.
2018: Launch of the National Environment Strategy.
2019: Saudi Arabia joins International Solar Alliance.
2020: Launch of Environmental Fund.
March 27, 2021: Launch of Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative.
Sept. 16, 2021: Farasan Islands added to UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia announces goal of Net Zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2060.
Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia joins Global Methane Pledge.
Progress has already been made in fostering environmentally conscious behavior at the community level. Saudi highways are better maintained now than before. Even in cities, drains are no longer clogged with cigarette butts, tissue paper, paper cups and discarded food packaging.
In part, such improvements are as a result of the introduction of penalties; the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing can now impose fines of $133 on anyone caught littering or spitting in a public place.
But concern about the environment and public interest in recycling and reducing household waste have also increased markedly, thanks to campaigns conducted by civil society groups.
One such group, Mawakeb Alajer, has worked for 17 years to encourage community-level recycling in Jeddah by providing sorting facilities where the public can drop off a wide range of recyclables, from scrap paper and waste plastic to unwanted furniture and even old wedding dresses.
“As a second-hand shop, we encourage people to give away what they don’t need to charity, which helps protect the environment by reducing waste,” Sara Alfadl, a spokesperson for Mawakeb Alajer, told Arab News.
“We believe that everyone plays a part in the community and we’re providing a service everyone can benefit from. We sort out everything we receive. This takes a lot of time, requires a lot of manpower and is hard. Thankfully, most of the items we receive, whether clothes or recyclable waste, are in good condition.”
In cooperation with local businesses, truckloads of recyclable materials are brought to Mawakeb Alajer’s facility where they are sorted and then sold, donated, or sent to be reused, recycled or repurposed. In the process, the group is helping to gradually change public attitudes.
“Awareness is still in its infancy but spreading nonetheless,” Alfadl said.
Schools have begun to play an important part in shaping attitudes among the next generation, by adopting “environmental literacy” projects that give pupils the chance to learn by participating in school-based recycling schemes and science projects.
For their part, many Saudi businesses are adjusting to the circular economy model, in line with the Kingdom’s pursuit of sustainable-development goals.
Mona Alothman, the co-founder of Naqaa, a local provider of business-to-business environmental-sustainability solutions, said that many companies are now integrating recycling and waste reduction into their business models.
“It’s not just a phase,” she told Arab News. “Many Saudi companies are adopting ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their office supplies and better manage their waste, among other things.
“A lot has changed in recent years. Regulations have become stricter in order to adhere to international standards. Our company’s core ethos revolves around sustainability, and recycling is one part of the picture.
“Companies today are not only applying our recommended solutions to office waste but also initiating campaigns to promote and encourage people to be more conscious of how they throw away their trash.”
This multi-pronged approach, encompassing education, charity schemes, stricter rules and penalties, is encouraging the Kingdom’s business establishments to adopt eco-friendly practices and communities to think more about the effects of lifestyle on the environment.
Alfadl and her colleagues at Mawakeb Alajer believe there is a lot that Saudis can do to encourage their employers, neighbors and local authorities to implement more environmentally responsible practices in homes and workplaces.
“I believe that recycling will pick up fast here in Saudi Arabia,” Alfadl said. “With growing awareness, what was once a project or short-term initiative has become a necessity.
“Our approach was always bottom-up. When employees join the sustainability drive with their actions, it won’t be long before others do the same and create a community of people who follow the same approach.”