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Volume 20, Number 6November/December 1969

In This Issue

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The Special Needs

Photographed by Tor Eigeland and Khalil Abou El Nasr

In addition to the efforts aimed at developing regular academic education, Arab governments have recognized the urgent need for special schools, both to train the technicians and skilled workers needed in a developing technological society, and to help those whose physical handicaps make modern urban society a particularly difficult challenge. Accordingly, nearly all the Arab countries now have government-run vocational training schools to turn out such specialists as mechanics, electricians, plumbers, lathe operators, radio repairmen, agricultural technicians, surveyors, tilemasters, carpenters and so on. Pupils who have gone through the normal six-year elementary stage go on to these schools instead of entering regular preparatory and secondary schools. Usually they are trained for three or four years before graduating. Some go on to higher training institutes, but most at this stage go straight to work.

Egypt, which lays heavy emphasis on industrialization, allows only 40 per cent of the pupils who havef i nished elementary school to go on to regular secondary schools. The rest either enter vocational training schools or commercial schools or drop out of the educational system. In 1967, this country had 216 technical, agricultural and commercial schools in which 136,486 boys and girls were enrolled. In the same year, Iraq had 36 such schools, including 16 home arts schools for girls only. Total enrollment was 8,632 students.

In Syria in 1968 there were 22 industrial and commercial schools with a total enrollment of more than 5,300 students and Jordan had 17 schools, includingtwo nursing schools, with 2,408 students registered, plus 342 Palestinian refugee students enrolled in vocational training schools operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Saudi Arabia came next with 11 schools offering training to 877 students, followed by Lebanon with nine schools and 1,831 students. This latter country, because its economy relies heavily on tourism. has a school to train Lebanese in the operation of hotels, with graduates specializing in administration, cuisine and service, and in 1971, with United Nations' participation, plans the world's first institute of international tourism. In addition to the government-run schools, Lebanon has a large number of private vocational training schools which vary widely in their standards, some of them being established simply as money-making ventures. Kuwait, with its great financial resources, has three superbly equipped technical and commercial schools with 1,139 students.

While stimulating the specialized education of youths who will contribute heavily to the modernization of Arab countries in the future, governments have not forgotten boys and girls who are handicapped and require special forms of education. Most of the countries have schools to teach the blind, deaf, dumb, mentally retarded, physically handicapped or socially maladjusted.

Kuwait, for instance, has built an academy which includes institutes for the blind, the deaf and dumb, the mentally retarded and paralytics. A total of 505 students of both sexes receive elementary education in these institutes, with many going on to specialized vocational training. Egypt in 1967 had 30 such schools with 4,265 students, including a school for children afflicted with rheumatic fever.

According to an April press release, Saudi Arabia had seven institutes for the blind with 875 pupils and two institutes for the deaf and dumb with 115 students. Jordan had six schools for the socially maladjusted with 285 students and now plans to establish one school each for the blind, the deaf and dumb and the mentally retarded.

In their efforts to reduce illiteracy and eventually wipe it out, most Arab countries with a high percentage of illiterates have instituted programs of adult education. Saudi Arabia has 550 adult education schools with a total enrollment of 34,824. Kuwait has opened 49 such centers with more than 20,000 people registered and Jordan operates 126 anti-illiteracy classes teaching the rudiments of reading and writing to 2,567 adults.

This article appeared on pages 15-21 of the November/December 1969 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for November/December 1969 images.