07/16/2010, 00.00
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Saudi students, summer vacation more "boring" school

Young people complain about the lack of fun activities and miss the time spent in class. Only homeowners can arrange leisure time. Football and gym activities most popular, but running outdoors is seen “frowned upon". Psychiatrist: families have to invest in summer camps or workshops.

Jeddah (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Summer holidays have started in Saudi Arabia, but students the kingdom seem to be upset: there is nothing "fun" to do and two months away from the class room - including Ramadan – has been transformed into a period of "boredom". So much so that they miss school, questions, examinations and lessons in the classroom. This is what emerges from a long article published by Arab News, which paints a picture of the Saudi youth, their interests and desire for greater freedom.

Daily life in the kingdom is a routine that offers no amenities or entertainment for young people. A boy explains that "the end of the school is welcomed with joy, but within a few days a very different reality is revealed: "In class we had something to do to keep us busy. During the holidays we get bored".  Those who does not have enough money to afford a beach house or their own home where they can invite friends, have to wander the streets avoiding the surveillance of the religious police.

Abdullah Madani, high school student, confirms that he is no longer amused by "video games and bike rides in the back of the house." He would like to do more "masculine" activities together with his friends (male, for the strict segregation of the sexes that exists in the country). But the initiatives the teenager and his group of friends come up with are frowned upon by people, even if completely "innocent".

Males, young and old, are even forbidden to enter the mall, says Arab News, because they are considered places for families. Men can not enter without the company of a woman - wife or close relative - and also have difficulty in making ordinary purchases. The authorities want to avoid "problems" that arise from contact between men and women without family ties. However, the security guards who watch malls consider the decision "unfair" and, in the morning, allow access to some young men.

In summer, the only activities that young people seem to be able to practice without incurring the wrath of families and police officers are sports. Gym and football, especially since running in a public place is frowned upon. Adnan Mufti, a psychiatrist and director of a mental health centre in Jeddah, invites families to invest in summer camps or seminars for their children so they don’t focus on entertainment alone. The scholar points out that in the past young people spent their free time "giving trouble to the people and women in the streets." "Today – he concludes - the free time of young people could lead to even greater problems."

Saudi society has to deal with modernity and young people - and women – are the elements that could lead to changes compared to rigid gender patterns that govern life in the kingdom.

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