Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
During a recent casual meeting with US consul general in Dhahran Mike Hankey and the Consulate’s Public Affairs Officer, Donya Eldridge, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Scholarship Program came under discussion. The program has helped many young Saudi men and women achieve their dream of attending the best schools in the world. It has also helped ease the pressure on the local universities in the Kingdom. We also discussed the efforts made by US Embassy in Riyadh and consulates in Dhahran and Jeddah in expediting the issuance of visas to Saudi students leaving for higher education in the US. Studying abroad is an altogether different experience. One not only gets the opportunity to learn inside a classroom but this learning process also continues outside the class. One gets to meet people from different cultures of the world and learn a great deal about interacting with people of other nationalities speaking different tongues. While studying abroad, one gets to know different learning methods and a wide range of work ethics. For Saudis the most important aspect of studying abroad is that they realize the true meanings and importance of free education and free health care. Saudi Arabia offers its citizens one of the most prestigious and comprehensive scholarship programs in the world. This scholarship program has been going on for many decades. Just a few years ago, the program was expanded to unprecedented levels. After every few months, thousands of Saudi students celebrate and participate in graduation ceremonies held in various countries across the world. The largest graduate ceremony is held in Maryland, US at the National Harbor near Washington, D.C. The scholarship program has proven its value. Many young men and women are attending the best schools around the world but there is a clear absence of the role of Saudi businesspeople — men and women — from this program. It is true that the Saudi government has allocated billions of dollars for this program, but it is also important that rich Saudis or the business community contribute to such programs in the greater good of Saudi Arabia. There are many companies and government departments who offer scholarships to Saudis. Despite all these programs, we are yet to see concerted efforts made by Saudi businesspeople in this regard. It is very important for the elites to contribute to the progress of the country by offering scholarships to young Saudis. The rich should make all-out efforts in improving the literacy rate in the Kingdom. The business community could coordinate with Saudi missions abroad by indicating their preferences to promote some students through a special fund. Such a fund could be set up to promote students with high scores. We should not heavily rely on the government for everything. Our government is sparing no efforts to boost the quality of education in the Kingdom and to help Saudis acquire admissions to world-class institutions abroad. To further boost education in the society, a public-private partnership is very much required. The Saudi business community’s role in this regard is far from satisfactory. It needs to do more. Many rich businessmen in the US allocate millions annually to help talented students realize their dreams. Our elite businessmen should also follow suit to help build the nation. Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Boosting Literacy in Kingdom reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.