There are no accurate statistics on the exact number of female teachers who have been killed in road accidents in Saudi Arabia while on their way to school and back.
However, a recent study indicated that around 150 female teachers died in accidents last year alone. The study noted 56 percent of vehicles used for transporting teachers are not fit to travel on highways while a further 22 percent have worn out tires, Al-Riyadh daily reported.
Umm Fatimah works as a teacher at a school hundreds of kilometers away from where she lives. The trip to her school and back home takes 5 hours.
Sometimes, the vehicle breaks down midway, causing the teachers to be late for class. “I remain constantly worried throughout the long trip.
"I travel with 35 other teachers in a bus and all of us are scared of having an accident any time because the driver speeds all the time,” she said while adding that her husband too was worried for her safety.
Aisha works in a school, which is about 580 kilometers away from her home. A few of her colleagues have been killed in road accidents while they were going to work and Aisha said she is in constant fear of having an accident.
“I feel depressed and worn out all the time because of this situation. The long trip affects my capabilities and skills as a teacher and takes a toll on me,” she said.
Sometimes, Aisha rents a place near her school and stays there for a few days to spare herself the agony of the long journey.
Zainab Abbas urged the concerned authorities to stop assigning teachers to remote schools and instead hire teachers who live nearby.
She also said the Ministry of Transport should set up a transport company exclusively for teachers. “The young women living in villages and towns should be given preference to work in the schools in their location, instead of hiring teachers from outside the area.
Any unpaved roads leading to a school should be paved. Most importantly, the Ministry of Education should set up a transport company to take teachers to their places of work and back home,” she said.
Dr. Mahdi Al-Tahir, a psychologist at Dammam University, said it was important that female teachers working in remote schools should be provided with all facilities to make their journeys less difficult.
“Teachers help educate the next generation and they should go to the school well-prepared and with peace of mind. This is the only way they can give their best to students,” she said.
Hussain Al-Haji, an economist, said the concerned authorities needed to find drastic solutions to the problem.
“So many female teachers lost their lives needlessly on the roads because they had to travel long distances to their workplaces.
Accommodation near the workplace and transportation services should be provided to all teachers,” he stressed.
Basim Abu Al-Saud, professor at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, is pessimistic about the authorities finding a solution to the problem in the foreseeable future.
“Many promises have been made to end this problem but nothing has materialized on the ground,” he said. Al-Saud suggested the authorities come up with short- and long-term solutions and try to solve the problem gradually.
“Most drivers who transport female teachers are reckless and travel at high speeds. The ministry should sign a contract with a reputable transport company and provide safer transportation services to the teachers.”
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on August 22, 2015.SHOW MORE