The Saudi press published reports about affiliates [to the Saudi Ministry of Education] who gathered to object to the decisions made by the Saudi Ministry of Education and what they described as mixing, and to object to the visit the Deputy Education Minister Nora al Fayez paid to boys’ schools. Those in objection met with Deputy Minister of Education Faisal Bin Muammar and Dr. Khaled al Sabti, the Deputy Education Minister for boys. The opposition focused on merging boys’ and girls’ education, which is not a new decision, and on female teachers teaching boys and girls in grades one to three at elementary schools as well as on Nora al Fayez’s visit to boys’ schools. What is positive about this issue is the meeting [that took place] between officials and those in opposition and that the officials listened to them and answered them in a civilized manner away from any distortion, especially as a lot of information has been presented in an inadequate and biased manner and this is something that we have grown accustomed to from the opposition regarding the development of the education process in Saudi Arabia.
According to what we heard from an official at the ministry, some of the members of the opposition who had good intentions had insufficient information and they were “given the full picture” [at the meeting] according to the official. For example, there was talk about mixing whilst the reality is that this is an amalgamation of systems so instead of there being engineers to teach female students and engineers to teach male students, they would be brought together as part of one system, in one building etc. Another example of malicious distortion is the protest against the Deputy Minister’s visit to boys’ schools. The truth – in the words of the official – is that she visited the building after working hours in order to learn about an experiment that might be applied to girls’ schools, and not as the distorters claimed! With regards to female teachers teaching both young boys and girls, this is now taking place in private [elementary] schools, noting that male and female students are not mixed together in one class. This is another example of malicious distortion. If it is successful it will be applied to all schools and it shows that decisions are taken based on scientific studies and not on whims and that this not merely a fad.
It is apparent from these examples that the truth of the matter is not how the distorters or those who want to tarnish the reputation of the Deputy Minister or those who want to prevent the development of education see it. Rather, what they are promoting is nothing but errors and the aim is to confuse society. But there is one important point here; there are some people who protest and have their reasons to do so even if they are not convincing, but there must be communication with them and the matter must be explained without ambiguity. Moreover, enthusiastic and influential religious and media figures and others must derive their information from reliable sources just as the education ministry should not be content with communication through the media alone but should also communicate through male and female students and their parents to help them understand matters through meetings, publications, leaflets etc. The development of education should not be an issue thrown back and forth between different trends or a matter subject to blackmail especially by people who do not care about anything but opposition such as Youssef al Ahmed, the man who issued a religious edict stating that Mecca should be rebuilt in order to prevent gender mixing. Where is he and his objection to the female terrorist Haylah al Qassir? Isn’t that deadly [gender-] mixing?
Therefore, for those who want to progress the key lies in education. We must say yes to females teaching both young boys and girls and yes to teaching the English language from the first class of elementary school. That is our future and the future of our children.
It is true that dialogue is important but education is just like security; it must not be subjected to whims.