Shortcomings in Saudi schools dash female students’ ambitions
Female students continue to voice concerns about shortcomings at girls’ schools
That the state of school buildings plays an important role in the overall education of a student is a no-brainer. For good facilities appear to be an important precondition for learning.
Buildings are places where students learn basic skills and assimilate knowledge while imbibing other valuable information that will help them in their lives; therefore, students should be provided with an environment that is conducive to learning and teaching while also enhancing the education process.
According to a report in Al-Sharq Arabic daily, female students continue to voice concerns about shortcomings at girls’ schools and how these shortcomings affect their educational development, to the effect that it even dashes their aspirational dreams.
Reem Saud is a fifth grade student who says schools should be reasonable when asking students to buy school supplies. Art classes in particular, according to Saud, are financially taxing, especially for low-income families.
“I think I speak on behalf of all schoolgirls when I say schools burden students with a lot of work for art class throughout the year. What bothers us is that schools don’t consider the financial status of students; some students come from poor families and can’t afford to buy the supplies art teachers ask students to buy every month,” said Saud.
“In addition, what should be creative sessions it generally turns into a drab routine work, with all treated with a single brush,” she added.
Another problem is that school administrators often fail to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. For example, students who suffer from low vision are not given priority when it comes to the distribution of seats in classes.
Saud suffers from poor vision but she has been assigned a seat in the back of the class because of a school policy that states students’ assigned seating should be changed at the beginning of every semester.
“I can’t see the blackboard from the back of the class. Besides, I get a terrible headache when I have to strain my eyes to try to make out what’s written on the blackboard from the back of the class,” she complained. “This despite the fact that I’ve taken remedial action.”
Saud also said her school’s cafeteria is too small to handle the number of students, which results in long lines during lunch and recess. “Many students are unable to buy something to eat at the cafeteria during recess because of the long lines. Moreover, there is only one window where you can buy food, causing discomfort to many,” she said.
Complaints and more complaints
Amirah Salim, a sixth grader, has to study in a rented building as her school does not have its own premises. Salim said the air-conditioners in the building are in poor shape, and they are unable to cool the classrooms. In poor weather it makes it hard for students to concentrate.
She also said the school does not pay enough attention to students with special talents, with the staff performing their duties by rote. “The school should nourish and develop the special talents of students. The staff should spot them and encourage them to build on their capabilities. The school should help provide them with courses and take them out on field trips just like male students.”
“Many of our demands remain unfulfilled, in addition to the fact that we have to suffer the circumstance of studying in a school building whose condition is so poor,” Salim added while calling on the Ministry of Education to inspect boys’ and girls’ schools in Al-Ahsa as most of them are in dilapidated condition.
In some neighborhoods, like Al-Rashidiya, there aren’t enough schools for all educational grades and residents end up having to commute to neighboring districts so they can attend the right classes.
Sarah Al-Sebaee, a middle school student, said the first week of each academic year is hard on students because they have to carry all their books with them until schools issue class schedules.
“Schools do not give students their class schedules until the second week of classes even though most teachers and administrative staff begin working a week before the start of the academic year. They should take advantage of this time and set class schedules and spare students the trouble of carrying all of their heavy books around,” she said.
Lack of resources
Wajdan Al-Eneizi, also a middle school student, said many schools are unequipped to handle emergency medical situations. She also wants girls’ schools to introduce physical education classes, as well as more activities that improve students’ English, computer and public speaking skills.
“I love architecture and engineering but I know I cannot study to be an engineer because girls are not allowed to specialize in these two fields. If girls were allowed to specialize in these fields, I would do my master’s and PhD in one of them,” she said.
Noora Salih, a high school student, complained about the small size of her school’s library. She also said students should be given crash courses to prepare them for the general aptitude test, the results of which determine what university and program students will be accepted to. Salih wants to be a lawyer and believes that women make better lawyers than men because they can talk more eloquently and are more convincing.
According to sociologist Monirah Hamad, the condition of most school buildings is unsuitable for an academic institution and this has a negative impact on students’ psychological state and academic achievement. “Authorities should provide PE classes to students and allow them to take field trips and provide rooms for extracurricular activities,” she said.
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