Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cause of Death: Teaching, In Saudi Arabia

Roads in Saudi Arabia are among the most dangerous in the world, with a high rate of traffic accidents. But one type of victim stands out: female teachers, who are dying at alarming rates because of long commutes through the desert to reach schools in remote locations.

And we can't say "Ugh, women drivers!" because women don't drive in Saudi Arabia. But hey, I'm multicultural enough to recognize that all cultures are equal--or at least, they're all superior to Western/US culture.

So anyway, how bad is it?

A study released in October by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology found that female teachers commuting to their jobs have about a 50 percent greater chance of getting into car accidents than average Saudi citizens. Its findings were based on figures from the late 1990s...

Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, so the teachers must hire drivers — sometimes sharing rides in minivans, leaving home as early as 3 a.m. Many of the roads leading to the remote schools are windy, unpaved and full of potholes.

"It's as if Saudi (female) teachers are doomed to bid farewell to their families every day and embark on a journey they may not return from," wrote Hasan al-Harthi in Al-Hayat newspaper.

I lived in Saudi Arabia for a few months in late 1977, when I was in 7th grade. Oh, the stories I could tell--but not in this post. This story doesn't surprise me, however.

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