‘Remote learning is one of the greatest opportunities’: Saudi expert

Time: 26 November 2020

Raising awareness about remote learning is important, says Abeer Hassan, an educationist

MAKKAH: Saudi society has been torn between the pros and cons of remote learning, which has laid the foundations of a new technological era.
“Remote learning is one of the greatest opportunities,” noted education expert, Abeer Hassan, the director of the innovation club at King Saud University.
“Analysis of the educational developments currently taking place around the Arab world … within the scope of remote working are the most significant evidence of (its) success, through the adoption of its models and the exchange of skills,” she added.
“Although we have been greatly successful, there are still some shortcomings such as the high financial costs, some communities not accepting this type of education, and some people refusing to replace teachers with television,” Hassan added.
“Awareness raising and highlighting the pioneering role of remote learning are of great importance. The first signs of its success are found in the continuous dynamic developments we are witnessing in the remote learning system,” she pointed out.
Nasser Bukhari, a parent, said that “remote learning burdened the families that now have to monitor their children throughout the year. Many families are now suffering due to the negative repercussions of students using tablets and mobile phones for long hours.
“This issue has affected their ability to focus,” he added, noting that “what characterized remote learning is that it helped families learn about technology and applications, shortened distances and vanquished the pandemic that took over the world.
“Remote learning helped preserve the health of Saudi Arabia’s citizens and residents. It was a courageous decision … that was lauded by all the beneficiaries, who clearly contributed to the harnessing of this technology, which might still be used even after the pandemic ends,” Bukhari added.
Waleed Shanaq, a student at Makkah’s Ali bin Abi Taleb High School, stressed that “remote learning was a wonderful idea, through which students were able to interact and complete their assignments since day one. This is a great platform that has diversified the means of learning.
“Remote learning is not a good decision when it come to all the subjects, as mathematics, physics and chemistry require an attendance in person. As for the other subjects, it would be a good idea to keep providing them remotely even after the pandemic ends,” he added.
“One of the problems facing remote learning is the indifferent students that are hard to monitor. This technology requires a quality of students who are aware of this technological and educational change, which demands an educational and moral commitment,” Shanaq said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to make coronavirus vaccine free for citizens and residents

Time: 24 November 2020

Muslim pilgrims wearing protective face masks arrive to circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia July 29, 2020. (Reuters)
  • It hopes the vaccines would cover 70 percent of the Kingdom’s population by the end of 2021

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health is aiming to offer free vaccines to 70 percent of citizens and expats in the Kingdom who have not yet contracted the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Officials are hoping to have met the target for inoculations by the end of next year.

“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr. Abdullah Asiri, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary for preventive health.

However, under-16s are not to be vaccinated unless research or tests prove there to be a need, he added.

He noted that the Kingdom planned to announce a clear schedule of vaccinations arrival to the country in the coming weeks.

“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organization, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing.

“Saudi Arabia will obtain a large amount of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is direct contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Asiri said.

COVAX is a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries around the world with equitable access to safe and effective vaccines once they are licensed and approved.

Asiri pointed out that obtaining effective vaccines required a long preparation plan and supply chain, and time for the vaccine to arrive in large enough quantities to the countries requiring it.

FASTFACT

The Kingdom plans to announce a clear schedule of vaccine arrival in the coming weeks.

“Therefore, what will be released this year is not expected to be in the large quantities that would affect the pandemic’s trajectory, which isn’t expected before mid-2021,” he added.

Assistant to the minister of health and official spokesman, Dr. Muhammad Al-Abd Al-Aly, said that the ministry would only provide COVID-19 vaccines that were effective against the virus, had no side effects, and were approved by the authorities concerned with granting licenses.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recorded 19 new COVID-19-related deaths on Monday taking to 5,796 the total number of people in the country who had now died after contracting the virus.

There were 231 new cases reported in the Kingdom, putting the total so far at 355,489. Officials said 5,877 cases were still active, of which 765 patients were in a serious or critical condition.

According to the Ministry of Health, 46 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, 18 in Makkah and Jeddah, and 11 in Madinah.

In addition, 445 patients had recovered from COVID-19, moving the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom up to 343,816.

Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 9,295,599 polymerase chain reaction tests, with 40,395 carried out in the last 24 hours.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Volunteers step up to provide services to worshipers in Makkah

Time: 17 November 2020

MAKKAH: The Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) has confirmed that a large number of people have stepped up this year to volunteer in Makkah’s Grand Mosque, eager to serve pilgrims after months of the mosque’s closure due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Only a small number of volunteers were taken in, however, due to the need to maintain social distancing and ensure the safety of pilgrims.

Director of the voluntary work at the SRCA in Makkah, Hanaa Al-Shamrani, told Arab News that in the first week of Umrah, volunteers were eager to serve pilgrims.

“Applications were received from all Saudi cities and towns without exception, but due to the current circumstances, the SRCA only accepted applications from Makkah to provide quality services in line with predefined health protocols,” she said.

Over 300 volunteers, including doctors, engineers and health practitioners, are providing first-aid services and raising awareness among pilgrims regarding the measures necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, such as observing social distance and wearing masks.

Volunteers speak Urdu, English, and Turkish, among other languages they have acquired over the years by coming into contact with pilgrims during the Hajj and Umrah seasons in Makkah.

“First-aid services are mainly provided for patients with diabetes and blood pressure issues, as well as those who have been exposed to heat stress and sunstrokes and those suffering from small wounds,” said Al-Shamrani. “Volunteers deal with these cases in a very professional manner, and serious cases are sent to nearby hospitals.”

She added that before the pandemic, volunteers used to distribute gifts to pilgrims, including prayer beads, rugs and light snacks, but this is no longer possible due to the virus.

SRCA Spokesman Abdul Aziz Badamoan told Arab News that its voluntary team started working in the Grand Mosque on Friday, in four different locations, with 20 female and 26 male volunteers.

“Volunteers have been providing various services in all the mosque’s corners, covering the halls, squares and prayer places allocated for women,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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