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Education in Saudi Arabia: A lack of basic safety procedures and requirements leads to a widening gap between school education and the standards of International Education.

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With reference to the basic principles of education approved by the United Nations in a series of articles on education, and on the basis of responsibilities that fall on respective countries, The Saudi European Organization for Human Rights,confirms that schools in Saudi Arabia at primary, intermediate and secondary level do not meet the basic principles adopted.
Many of the schools, as well as their equipment and related essentials which are necessery for  delivery of the educational process are currently not in accordance with international standards and norms.
Since the beginning of the current academic year in August 23, 2015, many of the shortcomings, which fall within the scope of the duties of the Saudi government(represented by the Ministry of Education), emerged. According to article 13 of the International covenant on ‘Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’it is clearly indicated that educational rights are the responsibility of the State towards individuals.
The shortcomings with respect to levels of school safety, represent a violation of  ‘the Convention on the Rights of the Child’, which Saudi Arabia joined in 1996. In the third article, it outlines that ‘States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety and health’.
Despite promises from the former Education Minister Khaled Al-Faisal in 2014, during his announcement of the details of the work program project  by King Abdullah which was intended for the improvement and development of Public Education, these promises did not emerge. The project sought to improve school buildings  to create an enjoyable learning environment.  However, even at the start of the current academic year, there are many instances ongoing problems in this regard.
Perhaps the most prominent is the continuation of the issue of rented schools, which lack an appropriate learning environment and are  commonly subject to many shortcomings a lack basic amenities.  The current percentage of rented schools for girls is 49%, while the percentage of charter schools for boys 35%, according to a report issued by the ministry.[1]
Despite the repeated promises of three ministers who served at the Ministry of Education for the last six years many of these have failed to materialize. These promises concerned the construction of schools which would conform to all educational requirements and needs, as well  as a commitment to reducing the number of rented schools. However, the percentage of rented schools remains high, and mostlack the most basic amenities, as the majority of these buildings were orignally built as family or residential housing.

Schools in Saudi Arabia suffer from a lack of basic safety procedures, which were introduced and implemented by Aramco as local standards (The rules of safety within the school systems), and so despite the existence of the budgets assigned specifically for provision of safety in ‘the Ninth Development Plan for the fourth year 1434/1435e’ approved by the Ministry of education.

These procedures that were introduced by ARAMCO[2]include many fundamental procedures, such as the permanent disclosure on the whereabouts of equipment and safety devices, and training in evacuation and emergency plan. However,  the start of the current academic year revealed that there were many shortcomings and neglect with regard to these procedures.
On the 7thof September 2015[3], a fire broke out in the Fifty-eighth elementary school for girls in Dammam, and the parents of the students stressed that the administration did not take appropriate measures to prevent such incidents.

Furthermore, instances of powercuts, broken airconditioning during heightened tempretures, as well lack of sanitary conditions in one of the elementary schools in the Aharazat  district in the city of Jeddah, which led to  medical conditions among students. [4]

Despite the education sector  being allocated a high budget[5], which accounts for 25% of the overall budget, many schools suffer in the Kingdom from problems related to construction and canteens, and also lack modern scientific laboratories which is one foundations of the educational process. Furthermore, there is a shortage in the number of schools in some cities.
Some schools had made complaints to the Supreme departments at the beginning of the academic year, including the first elementary school in the town of Seaara, in which citizens confirmed in a letter to the Department of Education in the Eastern Province, that they have problems with the classrooms and the cafeteria. [6]
Therefore shortcomings related to the school  buildings and infrastructure show a lack of conformity in accordance with international standards. This is in addition to the limited safety procedures and the varying educational process quality are cause for concern. Particularly when compared to the international principles that recognize that the right to education is a fundamental right, and it is this right which has compelled the Saudi European Organization for Human Rights to express concern for the safety of students and the supposed right of education.
Despite recurrences of safety related incidents(some of which led to deaths), such as the Fire School Girls in Jeddah in 2011,[7] It is not clear ifthe Saudi government has taken serious steps to mitigate these risks, as schools (particualrly rented schhols), stills suffer from a shortcomings in safety requirements.In addition, two weeksafter the start of the school year,  many students still suffered from a shortage of textbooks. Educational textbooks represent one of the foundations of the educational process, and are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education.
The Saudi European Organization for Human Rights believes that the problems that have emerged since the onset of the current academic year in Saudi Arabia, are part of onogoing problems which which have also occurred in the past.  This report summarises the negligence by the Saudi government in its duties to secure the full right to education for it’s citizens, in accordance with the basic principles approved by the United Nations. Securing the right to education is the responsibility of the Saudi government and it should do it’s utmost to honour this responsibility.










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