Three-day week for Saudi women in remote schools

The decision to cut the working week for women was taken in a bid to reduce road accidents

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A three-day work week for women teachers in schools in remote areas, to be applied from next semester, may also cover male teachers, according to the Ministry of Education.

The decision to cut the working week for women teachers in remote areas to three days was taken by Education Minister Prince Khaled Al-Faisal in a bid to reduce road accidents, said ministry spokesman Fahd Al-Harithy.

Many female teachers and students have been reported killed or injured in road accidents while on their way to or back from remote schools.

Al-Harithy said if the decision was successful, it would also be applied to male teachers.

He said there were other solutions to the problem of transporting women teachers to their remote schools that would be revealed later.

“The female teachers transport project is currently under study and will be announced very soon,” he added.

The spokesman said there are criteria to decide the schools to be covered by the decision, including remoteness, difficulty of terrain and the number of students.

He said women teachers would work in shifts so that the school remains open for five days a week according to the rules and regulations of the Ministry of Civil Service.

“The classes a teacher is giving will be scheduled in such a way to enable her to finish them in three days,” he added.

The spokesman, however, said the teachers would have the option to complete the remaining two days of the working week either in their schools or in the department of education nearest to their homes.

Women teachers in Al-Baha and other regions were split over the decision.

While some of them considered it a positive step, others saw it as ineffective and said it would not end the predicament of women teachers in remote areas.

Some of them said it would put a lot of pressure on them as they would have to finish the work of five days in three.

Reem Al-Ghamdi believed the decision would not achieve its goals while Muna Saleh, another schoolteacher, said it would spare the teachers the agony of the long distances they would have to commute every day.

Umm Blaisan, a school supervisor, said the decision would relieve teachers of the pressure of long distances but would not end the constant threat of accidents.

“The reduction of the school week does not mean a reduction of the syllabuses, so the students will suffer,” she added.

Sharifah Al-Ghamdi said she does not fully agree with the decision. “The solution lies in the construction of good roads and a modernization of the means of transport,” she said.

Raidah Mohammed, Afra Al-Faisal and Muneerah Awwad, three teachers from Makkah, said the decision would reduce accidents but said the reduction of the working week would put a lot of pressure on them.

Najwa Al-Hakami, a teacher also from Makkah, hoped the decision would cover all schools that are about 100 km away from the main cities.

She asked the ministry to provide female teachers with a safe and modern means of transport.

Jameela Al-Maliki, a teacher from Asir, said the decision was not a solution. “The problem is not the days of work but the long distances we have to cover every day, the bad roads and the speeding drivers,” she said.

This story was originally posted on the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 23, 2014.

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