Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — In a report to the Shoura Council, the Ministry of Education said it believes in the importance of physical education (PE) for both male and female students.
It also said that it will introduce PE classes in girls’ schools. The classes will take into consideration social traditions and conventions of Saudi society and will be in line with the fatwa issued in this regard by the Senior Board of Ulema. The ministry requested the Shoura Council to approve their recommendations to develop sports in schools.
In 2011, the ministry promised to upgrade the sports programs in boys’ schools and to start offering PE classes for girls as well. However, the girls in government schools are still waiting for the promises to materialize as their schools remain without any form of physical exercise classes.
On the other hand, most private schools for girls provide a wide range of physical activities for their students that are not just fun but also good for the body — including soccer, basketball, races, volleyball.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently sent recommendations to health authorities in the Kingdom on the importance of physical exercise for the health of schoolgirls.
Haifa Madi, health protection and enhancement director for the WHO, said: “New programs and strategies are being implemented by the WHO to combat the most common health problems which are threatening the Middle Eastern region — more specifically non-communicable diseases. Excessive weight gain, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and consuming foods of poor nutritional quality are significant factors in the spread of chronic diseases in the Gulf region that could affect mortality.”
Diabetes, heart diseases, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and even cancer can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle: sticking to regular aerobic exercise five days a week, refraining from smoking, eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and fibers and low in saturated fats, chemical additives and cholesterol.
“Physical exercise is a positive addition to any educational program due to its long list of benefits. Regular exercise must be taught from a young age and incorporated in schools so that it becomes a life-time habit that is practiced during childhood, adolescence and continues into adulthood.
"Physical activity must be introduced in schools to halt the alarmingly high rise in type-II diabetes witnessed among children in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries,” said Madi.
Lina Almaeena, co-founder of Jeddah United Sports Co., said, “In addition to all the physical and psychological health benefits of introducing school sports programs for girls, sports and physical exercise have a lot of social benefits. Playing sports and being part of a team teaches the girls important values, such as teamwork, cooperation, discipline, sharing, team spirit and leadership skills.”
Almaeena said that due to the luring attractions of technology, Internet and smart phones, the youth may spend six to seven hours a day sitting in front of a screen. This could harm their eyes and backs, and lack of exercise leads to weight gain.
Excessive use of the worldwide web has its own risks because parents can no longer control or at least supervise what their children are being exposed to, Almaeena added.
For example, Almaeena explains, a teenager from her own bedroom can be communicating over the Internet with a complete stranger in another part of the world. “We need to encourage the younger generation to be more involved in alternative activities and be more physically active.”