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czwartek, 21 kwietnia 2011

Life for a Saudi student on the king’s scholarship

Although the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program is a blessing to many students, other students find it hard to live within the means of the monthly $1,800 allowance they receive every month claiming that their expenses and the city they live in are pricey.
Saudi single female students also have problems with the requirement of having a male guardian (typically a brother or husband) with them until they complete their studies.
Saudi students studying in the US say that their monthly allowance is not enough for them to spend. “I receive $1,800 a month and I spend it on rent, utilities, cable, Internet, telephone bill and grocery shopping — and with that I end up broke from the first couple of days into the month,” said Faris Maghraby, a 24-year-old MBA student at Troy University in the US state of Alabama. “I sometimes ask my family to send me more money and other times I just stay broke and don’t leave the house.”
For some, taking part-time jobs is the only way to get by.
“I have been tutoring and giving private classes to other students so I can afford to pay all my bills,” said Mohammed Elyass, a 22-year-old student in Tampa, Florida. “I am very good at math and calculus and I’m using this to my advantage by making money out of my good knowledge of numbers. I make $15 an hour per student which at the end leaves me with around $60 a day. I use that money to pay my car insurance, gas and my house rent.”
Parents send monthly allowances for their children studying abroad to keep them from taking part-time jobs and to help them focus on their studies.
“I was working at a cashier in a local supermarket for a month and I told my mother about it she started screaming and yelling saying that she sent me to study not to work,” said Abdulrahman Khalil, 20-year-old student in the UK. “Then she started sending me money every month that helps in paying my rent and other expenses and mainly to keep me focusing on studies and not work.”
Calculating his expenses is frustrating for 21-year-old Mohammed Nagadi, who lives in Tampa.
“Before I make any purchases I carefully plan my expenses. Putting in mind that a new laptop or a mobile phone might be deducted from my rent or my electricity bill, and those are bills you cannot play with,” he said. “I cannot have anything luxurious or expensive item that leaves me with having to either buy secondhand electronics or just use my friends’ stuff.”
Married students who have their family with them also suffer from money problems.
“Having a baby living with you outside the Kingdom is so expensive, even though we get a higher allowance than single students,” said Alia Taher, a 28-year-old student pursuing a master’s degree in Canada. “Nurseries here are crazy expensive and nannies are expensive, too. When I go to college, I sometimes have to drop my kid at a babysitter who charges $5 per hour.”
Another problem pertains to women is that they must be accompanied by a male guardian to be eligible for the scholarship.
“I’m the only girl in my family and my dad is tied by his job in the Kingdom, it’s hard for him to drop everything in his hand and accompany me for my studies,” said Doha Saleh, 21-year-old finance student in London. “My father usually comes almost every two or three months to check on me and then flies back to Saudi Arabia.”
Technically, this is in violation of the rules of the scholarship, since Saudi women are expected to have their male guardians with them at all times. But fathers, brothers, other male relatives, and even husbands, don’t always have the luxury of accompanying the student to her study abroad because of obligations back home in Saudi Arabia. Academics say that there should be alternative and flexible solutions to this condition. The most important among the solutions is that the Ministry of Higher Education should make available housing facilities abroad. Or, perhaps Saudi families should decide for themselves what living conditions are acceptable.
“I cannot find a reason why I cannot study abroad without my brother or my father,” said Mariam Sultan, 23-year-old English literature student in Malaysia.
The condition of mahram (male guardian) accompanying female students on the scholarship is due to the Kingdom’s leadership wanting to ensure the safety and security of women and prevent them from being molested,
According to Dr. Abdullah Dahlan, former member of the Shoura Council, the reason for requiring the male guardian is for the protection of the female students.
“Normally, male legal guardians register their names at the cultural attaché under the Saudi Embassy of the respective foreign country where the girls attend their courses. But it is difficult for the embassy to monitor whether these guardians stay on until the completion of the courses,” he said. “Some reports show that about 90 percent of male legal guardians who register their names at the diplomatic missions are not present with their girls all the way through.”
Dahlan also noted that it is not possible for the male legal guardian to accompany the girl in classrooms, laboratories, lecture halls or even at the university campus. He urged authorities to hold dialogue with prominent figures, including academics, social experts and community leaders, in order to find a solution to this problem.


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