Saudi authorities to let women teach boys

The project, which aims to improve the education system and ensure quality education for students, covers boys and girls in kindergarten (aged 4 and 5), and the first three grades of primary school (aged 6 to 8). Classes remain segregated along gender lines. The kingdom will also appoint its first 50 female public prosecution investigators.

Jeddah (AsiaNews) – For the first time in the history of the Wahhabi kingdom, Saudi women will be able to teach boys in 1,460 public schools.

Coming in the wake of the lifting of the driving ban on women and the loosening of male guardianship rules, this represents a timid sign of openness in terms of rights and greater freedoms for women in a society that is still archaic and predominantly male-dominated in which the sexes are strictly separated.

“With this project, the Ministry of Education aims to improve the efficiency of the educational system and ensure that every child has access to quality education around the Kingdom,” said Suaad Al-Mansour, assistant director general of education in Jeddah, speaking to Arab News.

The Early Childhood Schools Project includes kindergartens for boys and girls aged 4 and 5 and the grades 1 to 3 for students aged 6 to 8.

Still, classes in primary grades will not be mixed. “There are separate classrooms, toilets, and other facilities for the young boys and girls,” al-Mansour explained.

The project involves 1,460 schools, 3,313 classes, and 83,000 students. Women are expected to teach about 13.5 per cent of boys.

According to the ministry, besides improving the quality of education, the project aims at improving space utilisation efficiency and take full advantage of public-school buildings, thus saving 3 million from the education budget in space alone.

The ministry also wants to boost children’s enrollment in public kindergartens versus private schools by 21 per cent this year.

About 6 million students across the 13 administrative regions of the Kingdom returned to school on Sunday after almost four months of summer vacation.

Al-Mansour notes that early childhood is the most important stage in building a child’s personality, adding that a female teacher is more approachable and less intimidating for young boys at that stage.

“This project will bridge the gap young boys used to face after moving from kindergarten to primary school,” she said.

Another first for women in Saudi Arabia is coming with the appointment of the kingdom’s first 50 women public prosecution investigators.

After taking a course before joining, the women marked their appointment at a ceremony held at the Public Prosecution headquarters in Riyadh.

Government sources note that more women are expected to be appointed in the coming months.

Alanoud Bin Hamad, 24, a graduate of Princess Nourah University was happy to say that, "every Saudi female can achieve her dream now. The doors are wide open for females in every field.”