JEDDAH: With less than two weeks to go until elementary students were due to return to classrooms in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Education has announced that they will continue to be taught remotely until further notice, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.
The proposed Oct. 31 return to in-person teaching has been postponed for safety reasons, the ministry said.
It added that it requires further epidemiological data about the COVID-19 situation in the Kingdom as part of a risk assessment before a decision can be made on the resumption of in-person learning for children below the age of 12.
“The ministry will continue its efforts to offer virtual learning to the age group through ‘Madrasati’ (online platform) for the elementary level and ‘Rawdaty’ for preschool level,” it said.
The Ministries of Health and Education have been working together to ensure the successful resumption of in-person education for middle-school and high-school students.
In August, the Ministry of Education announced that, in accordance with regulations issued by the Health Ministry, fully vaccinated students over the age of 12 would return to classrooms. Those who are not fully vaccinated will continue to be taught remotely, with classwork uploaded to the ministry-approved Madrasati platform.
On Oct. 12, the Ministry of Education issued a directive urging education authorities across the Kingdom to ensure that all students are fully vaccinated, and reiterating that those who are not will have to remain at home. Students were given two weeks from the start of the semester to complete the vaccination process.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 49 new COVID-19 cases in the Kingdom and two related deaths.
The latest figures put the total number of cases so far recorded in the country at 548,018 and the overall death toll at 8,767.
Health officials said there were currently 2,214 active cases, of which 90 patients were in a serious or critical condition.
Among the newly reported cases, 16 were in Riyadh, nine in Jeddah, three in Jubail, and two in both Al-Darb and Makkah.
The ministry also announced that 38 patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,037.
A further 45,275 polymerase chain reaction tests had been carried out in the last 24-hour period, meaning that to date more than 29.8 million PCR checks had been conducted in the country.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that at least 44.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started and more than 20.8 million people were now fully vaccinated.
MAKKAH: Dyslexia, a learning disorder characterized by difficulty with reading, is common but for many years there was a widespread lack of awareness about it in Saudi Arabia. As a result people with the condition often did not get the help they needed.
This has changed significantly in recent years thanks to community-awareness campaigns, through which Saudis have learned more about the condition. This is helping with early recognition and intervention but challenges remain.
This month is Dyslexia Awareness Month, and to mark the occasion advocates and campaign groups in the Kingdom are stepping up their efforts to educate the community and show how knowledge is key to changing the narrative about people with learning difficulties.
According to specialists and people with dyslexia, media awareness campaigns in the past few years and the decision by Saudi authorities last September to officially classify it as a learning disorder have helped to improve the rights of people with the condition. They also said that modern diagnostic techniques mean that official figures for dyslexia in Saudi Arabia are much more accurate than they once were.
The condition was identified in 1881 by Dr. Rudolf Berlin, a German ophthalmologist in Stuttgart. A pioneer in his field, he was the first to describe it, and give it a name, in his paper Eine Besondere Art der Wortblindheit: Dyslexie (A Special Type of Word Blindness: Dyslexia), which was published in 1887. This formed the basis for all subsequent research, thanks to his systematic description of the condition.
Dr. Muhannad Al-Ali, a neurologist at King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, said that dyslexia is a newly prevalent disorder in the Kingdom, meaning that until recently it was not classified as a condition. The amount of research carried out since the 1990s globally remains modest, he added.
Many people with dyslexia are unaware they have condition, he said, since the amount of time we spend on traditional forms of reading has declined. As a result, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose.
“Dyslexics find it difficult to comprehend what they read,” Al-Ali told Arab News. “They can read the first line but get tired and lose focus when reading the next.
“It is possible for a dyslexic to be able to read WhatsApp messages, for example, but unable to read a book or articles.” He further explained that because dyslexia does not have clear, consistent medical criteria associated with it, there is no specific, definitive test to diagnose it.
This can result in years of suffering by patients who later in life finally discover they have dyslexia, Al-Ali added.
“It arises with the child’s upbringing and often has roots in the area of the brain that handles comprehension, reading and cognition, and there are studies showing genetic and hereditary factors, but there is no clear and direct reason as to why a person has dyslexia,” he said.
Recent studies have clarified the significant role of functional magnetic resonance imaging of brain activity in determining the nature of the condition, Al-Ali explained.
This could be promising since cognitive behavioral therapy — in which a therapist provides a model for an appropriate behavioral response to a situation and the patient tries to copy that, receiving feedback on their attempt — has had significant benefits for some people with dyslexia.
Ibtisam Al-Samali, who is dyslexic and works as an engineer, said that community awareness is still at an early stage, but the situation is improving thanks to the good work of campaigners.
But she added that accurate figures for the number of people with dyslexia in Saudi Arabia are not available as the country lacks a unified, accredited body to identify and monitor people with the condition.
Al-Samali said she only learned about dyslexia when she was at university. Describing it as an invisible disability, she praised the efforts of civil society institutions and businesses to make a difference to people with the condition. She highlighted in particular the efforts of STC Pay which, as part of a community partnership, is helping to raise awareness of the condition through messages posted on social media.
“The road ahead is still long, as support is needed to establish the Saudi Dyslexia Society in preparation for setting up specialized schools for future dyslexic students, especially since dyslexics can pass this hereditary disability down to their children,” she told Arab News.
Dr. Yahya Al-Qahtani, an expert in special education and learning difficulties at Sultan bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City said: “Dyslexia includes stuttering, difficulty and boredom in reading and following numbers and letters, and difficulty in focusing on, listening to and understanding the question. It is a disability that can be overcome through innovative educational strategies and methods.”
He added that although it has been identified widely since the 19th century, the disorder is still not clearly defined and not enough attention has been paid to a number of aspects of it, including medical questions concerning the nerves and behavioral effects.
Al-Qahtani added that Saudi Arabia lags some other nations in identifying people with dyslexia and that diagnosis and evaluation differs between schools, which often rely on older testing methods are not always effective.
A response-to-intervention assessment tool is already in use in some schools in Saudi Arabia and comprises three levels, Al-Qahtani said. The first level includes intensive teaching, to which 80 percent of students respond. The second level employs alternative teaching strategies and methods, which helps 15 percent of students. The third level is the provision of special education services, to which the remaining 5 percent of students respond.
He also highlighted the lack of accurate figures on the number of people with dyslexia in Saudi Arabia. About 400,000 students in the country have learning difficulties, he noted, and dyslexia affects about 40 percent of them.
Mohammad Bahareth, who is dyslexic and the founder of the Saudi-based Dyslexia Initiative, thanked the Human Rights Commission and its president, Awad Al-Awwad, who he credited for the official classification of dyslexia as a learning disorder and obtaining the Ministry of Information’s endorsement of the website www.dyslexia.sa as a source of information for people who want to learn more about the condition.
He also said that Arab News was one of the first newspapers to support the initiative.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday held talks with his British counterpart, Liz Truss, to discuss Yemen, Iran, and the wider Middle East region.
Truss arrived in the Saudi capital earlier in the day as part of a Gulf tour aimed at boosting economic and security ties. The trip followed a free trade agreement the UK began with the Gulf Cooperation Council as part of its deals to develop trade after leaving the European Union.
The two sides discussed the Kingdom’s efforts and initiatives to reach a political solution to the conflict in Yemen in a way that supports development and stability for the Yemeni people, the Saudi foreign ministry said.
They also discussed the most prominent developments regarding the Iranian nuclear deal and the ongoing negotiations in Vienna.
An honour to meet my Saudi counterpart His Highness @FaisalbinFarhan in Riyadh today to discuss:
Working together on infrastructure in Africa and Asia
An even stronger UK-Saudi trade relationship pic.twitter.com/re6NZ2HDzP
Tehran has been holding up negotiations aimed at reviving a landmark 2015 accord that scales back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief since before Ebrahim Raisi was sworn in as president in August. Iran has stopped honoring some of its commitments and increased its uranium enrichment, which sparked concern from the UN nuclear watchdog agency and the international community.
During the meeting, Prince Faisal and Truss “reviewed the strong and historical Saudi-British relations, and opportunities to strengthen them in all fields,” the foreign ministry said.
They also discussed Saudi-British efforts to lay the foundations for peace, security, and stability in the Middle East and the world. They also exchanged views on several issues of common interest.
“An honor to meet my Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh today to discuss working together on infrastructure in Africa and Asia, security, and an even stronger UK-Saudi trade relationship,” Truss said in a tweet following the meeting.
Saudi Ambassador to UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar also attended the meeting.
The reception was attended by H.H Prince Khalid Bin Bandar Al Saud, Ambassador of the Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom, Deputy Minister for Political and Economic Affairs, Ambassador Eid Al-Thaqafi, and Mr. Sultan bin khuzaym General Director of the European Department.
ALULA: Important sources of Saudi heritage in AlUla, Taima, and Khyber will be better protected as part of a new deal between the Royal Commission for AlUla and King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives.
It comes as part of efforts by the RCU to protect heritage material in the Kingdom.
The three-year agreement includes the establishment of a center to preserve manuscripts affiliated with the Al-Mamalek Institute, which launched last April as part of the Journey Through Time Masterplan.
The Masterplan is an international center for archaeological research, the preservation of historical sites, the documentation of history and oral heritage, and skills training.
The agreement aligns with the RCU’s objectives to promote the archaeological, tourism, culture, education, arts and environmental sectors by promoting the region’s historical landmarks.
Eng. Amr Al-Madani, CEO of RCU, said that the commission is playing its role in promoting and developing its works through agreements with various sectors, and is increasing its impact in the fields it supervises.
He added that the agreement will focus on historical perspectives, including people, their stories and the heritage of all three locations. The social lives, authenticity and cultures of AlUla, Taima and Khyber will also be represented, and will boost the profile of the trio as tourist destinations.
Al-Madani said that RCU is proud of its role in strengthening and developing the performance of nonprofit institutions, promoting their activities and boosting their impact in the development field for AlUla residents.
Through works, programs and agreements with various sectors, RCU aims to achieve AlUla’s vision and increase sustainable development.
Inspired by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its three pillars — “vibrant society, thriving economy and ambitious nation” — RCU’s heritage sector forms a central part of AlUla’s mission.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed three new COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,770.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 47 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 548,065 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 84 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 14, followed by Jeddah with 10, Makkah and Taif recorded three cases each , and Tabuk confirmed two cases.
The health ministry also announced that 58 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,095.
Over 44.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 20.9 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Walid Al-Samaani announced on Wednesday that lawyers and beneficiaries are now able to enter courts without the need for a prior appointment.
The ministry said that the decision coincides with the government's easing of health precautionary measures, but added that anyone entering the judicial headquarters must have received two doses of the vaccine. It also said that the decision will be evaluated within 30 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 242 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.93 million.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday held talks with US envoy to Iran Robert Malley in the capital, Riyadh, on ways to curb Iran’s violations and destabilizing regional activity.
During the meeting, they reviewed bilateral cooperation between the Kingdom and the US on the Iranian nuclear deal and ongoing international negotiations to revive the agreement.
Tehran has stopped honoring some of its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal and has been holding up negotiations aimed at reviving the landmark accord that scales back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, sparking concern from the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
Prince Faisal and Malley also spoke about intensifying joint efforts to address Iranian violations of international agreements and treaties.
The two sides also discussed the importance of strengthening joint action to stop Iranian support for terrorist militias that threaten security and stability in the Middle East and the world.
Earlier on Wednesday, Malley met with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.