This month the Education Ministry instructed all religion teachers to spend five minutes of every class they teach to lecture students on how to dress properly and avoid western clothes. These instructions are strange considering that all Saudi public schools have very strict dress codes that even govern hairstyles. Girls have to wear a uniform inside the school and a tent style abaya with full face cover coming in and going out of the school while boys have to wear thobes (traditional Saudi menswear) and have their hair almost shaved off. And yet this is not enough, what students wear at home and on their own time under their parents’ supervision has to be addressed too!
Another issue that the Ministry has asked all schools to look out for is that some students come to school with pictures on their bags and stationary supplies. The issued warning is ambiguous about the nature of these pictures but for readers of Arabic you would think it was pornography. Actually it’s more in the nature of the wildly popular Disney High School Musical and Hannah Montana characters. These according to the warning are putting our school environment and the whole of society in dire danger. While the schools do their jobs of confiscating pictures and organizing parental awareness programs, the Ministry has promised to take this up with Saudi commerce to stop allowing these pictures into the country.
In all Ministry of Education supervised schools students spend a lot of time on religious studies averaging about 6 to 9 40 minute classes per week, depending on the grade level. What is taught during all that time? Some of it is just reading and memorizing the Quran which I enjoyed as a student since many of the Quran chapters we took were stories about prophets. But many other classes are devoted to abstract and unrelatable concepts especially at the elementary level. And what I mean by abstract is like a whole subject devoted to monotheism that is taught over and over again from first grade up until students graduate. And then there’s Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) in which students learn about which kind of lamb should be sacrificed and how to prepare a corpse for burial, all of this in theoretical terms of course and through mostly rote memorization. What am I getting at? It bothers me that all this time at school is spent on such topics that the majority of students will not have to deal with in real life. What is more, the Ministry is willing to push class time for such a superficial issue like how students dress in their own time but at the same time if you visit any school canteen in our kingdom you will find chaos. I have never seen a school canteen where students stand properly in line waiting for their turn.Come in to any school early in the morning and I guarantee that you will catch some students with their notebooks sprawled out copying last night’s homework. Check out all the posters hanging on the walls of the school and you will see that at least 95% of them were not done by the students whose names are shamelessly written on it but actually some Syrian or Egyptian man in a shop was paid to make it. Teaching students to have pride in making things themselves has not quite caught on.
The Prophet Mohammed PBUH said (Religion is morals) which means that the main manifestation of Islam within a society is how people deal with each other. So why is respecting others by standing in line not assigned five minutes? Why is plagiarism and pride in one’s own work not assigned a chapter? And how about Saudi arrogance, self-righteousness and racism?
This post was long overdue having gotten myself into numerous verbal clashes at cashiers because people just won’t wait their turn but what really instigated this topic was that my sister’s friend was beaten up badly by a couple of women at a clothing shop, Zara, because she wouldn’t let them cut in. She took this to court but the women just won’t show up and consequently the hearing keeps getting postponed.