Female teachers posted to Laith villages call for some respite

The roads that take female teachers to villages outside Al-Laith are very dangerous and are often impossible to use especially when it rains.

By Manal Al-Kashri

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

AL-LAITH — Female schoolteachers posted to work in remote villages east of Al-Laith city have complained about the rising number of accidents on what they described as “the death roads”. They say they are exposed to all sorts of dangers from rain and floods to the bad condition of the roads. They are forced to travel on these roads on a daily bases to get to their schools.

Their complaints fell on deaf ears as officials did not respond and fix the road, or transfer the teachers to areas close to their homes.

A teacher who lives up north is forced to travel all the way south to get to her school.

One of the teachers, who did not want to reveal her name, said, “Our suffering started when we were appointed as teachers in these remote villages, which are not developed. We suffer a lot to get there because the roads are not paved. This caused a lot of health problems for us. When it rains, it becomes impossible for us to get to our schools or back home. When it rains in those villages, it means we are fighting certain death.”

Another teacher, who also did not wish to mention her name, said, “Our pain and suffering starts when we make the journey from our homes in Jeddah to the schools where we teach in Al-Laith governorate. We travel long distances until we reach a point where it becomes impossible for our car to go further. Then we have to wait for a 4X4 Jeep that can travel through the rough areas in the mountain. We pass through dangerous valleys that become impossible to cross when it rains. Sometimes we go back home because it is impossible to cross the valleys.”

Umm Sarah, another Saudi female teacher, said, “It is unfair that a teacher who travels for hours to reach her school get the same treatment and financial benefits as a teacher who lives near her school in the city.”

She said sometimes it took them more than three hours to get to their schools and as much time to get back home.

“I pay around SR2,500 for transportation every month to get to these areas. Our condition as teachers working in rural areas needs to be considered and we need to be granted certain exceptions. When we cannot get through to our schools because of rain and floods, we are marked absent. We have no good means of transportation and we suffer a lot from flash floods that cut off the roads. It takes days before we are able to return back to our schools after they fix the roads. Sometimes we are facing extortion from drivers, who claim their cars were damaged because of the bad roads and ask us to pay for repair,” Um Sarah said.

Residents of these villages very well remember the painful shrieks of a father whose three sons drowned as he looked on helpless. The man could not seek help because there was no cell phone network in the area and it took the Civil Defense a lot of time to reach the location once informed.

Residents see death accompanying the rain because the floods make the mountain roads more dangerous to navigate. According to the residents the area, these roads are the main reason of the delay for help getting in time to accident locations.

Some residents said they were sometimes forced to walk for hours to reach a place where the cell phone network is available so that they can call for help.