Making summer breaks productive

By : Sabria S. Jawhar

We have never been very good at finding constructive things to do for our kids during the long and hot summer vacation.

We’ve had our share of summer vacation programs, but from time to time we have seen a number of them fail because the adults were not supervised and some summer camps ended up promoting extremism.

So in the end we have our kids sitting on the sofa, chomping on chips and soda while watching an endless loop of the “Shrek” movies.

The Ministry of Education, in an attempt to shed the shackles of lethargy, is doing something about our tendency toward physical and mental laziness by developing a countrywide program.

The King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Project for Development of Public Education is getting ready to launch 720 summer camps this year across the country. The goal is to invest in students’ free time by providing disciplined activities and projects. The camp lasts two months through Ramadan and will be held at well-equipped government schools with multipurpose lounges and safe and secure playgrounds. Schools selected for the program will be located in high-density neighborhoods. Qualified educators will supervise boys and girls of all ages.

The programs’ focus will be on general education, sports, health care, fitness and life skills. The plan is to help students develop values and the right attitude toward life, education, work and to develop a sense of community by instilling the urge to perform volunteer work. The programs hope to achieve patriotism and develop strong personalities and productive skills.

These areas will be taught within the framework of Islam and Saudi culture. Skills taught to the Saudis by the Saudis. Above all, it will instill discipline while at the same time providing a break from the heavy academic load that students carry throughout the school year.

Our track record in developing such programs have been mixed. There was a period where unsupervised camps evolved in extremist instruction, mainly because the adult volunteers lacked the qualifications and program organizers failed to perform due diligence during the screening process.

This time around the application process is more vigorous and will help fill the gap between our abandonment of previous programs and what the Education Ministry plans now.

The new programs give me hope that we can finally solve the puzzle about how to effectively fill children’s time during the summer months without exhausting them but at the same time providing positive reinforcement, discipline in thought and use of time and guide them through interests that will lead to a fruitful career.

Much credit goes to the Education Ministry for finally thinking less about building a new campus and more about building better minds. There is still the threat of a minority group of educators that will attempt to hijack programs to support their own extremist ideology, but if the ministry sticks to its checks and balances while going through the selection process of adult supervisors, the threat should be minimal.

But let’s not be too smug. If this program fails to achieve its goals we could lose a large segment of young students who may fall back into their old summertime habits, creating a generation of individuals who lack the discipline and skills necessary to compete in the workplace.






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