Saudi Arabia: Since a high percentage of the Kingdom’s residents enroll their children in private schools, Saudi businesswomen have found a unique and rewarding area of investors.
Estimates show that around 47 percent of Saudi stakeholders opt to invest in the education sector, mostly driven by their passion to invest in areas that contribute to society and human development.
Investor Malha Al-Qahtani says education is one of the first fields in which Saudi women stakeholders decided to invest in as it has fewer limitations than other fields.
She added that many facilities are present in this sector, since the education departments are independently-ruled by women, which translates to more flexibility for women in their workplace. Advanced stages, however, include mixed-gender administrations.
Al-Qahtani has been granted several prizes for her role in empowering the education sector in the Kingdom.
With the grant of funds to establish a school five years ago, she has implemented new ideas that focus on development and change. An example of these ideas can be found in “My rights in my childhood” project and another one for the academically challenged children who have some problems such as hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. She explains that her goal is to develop children and empower their abilities. “Children were not accepted in public schools, and found obstacles to join private ones.
Their parents also feared that enrolling them in centers of the disabled would result in regressing their situation instead of developing it,” she clarified, adding that such pioneer projects for the academically challenged children allow more students to enroll in her school.
For investor Alia Al-Essa, this women-ruled sector calls for regulation since the growing investment in education has given rise to inexperienced stakeholders.
“The investors should have experience in the education field so that they don’t close down their projects in the very first year, especially when the private school projects are facing many challenges given the government’s nationalization drive,” she said.
She explained that the inability to pay the state-fixed salaries for local employees –SR 5600 — has led to “closure of many schools across the Kingdom because managing investments requires the ability to confront and manage crises as well as working out the viability studies.”
AL-Essa added that government bureaucracy has made investors willing to put money in this sector face many challenges. “The requirements and conditions change on a daily basis that require clear laws to help resolve these issues,” she said, adding that the licensing process can take more than two years to conclude.
Other problems are related to insufficient funding, lengthy process of receiving funds and Saudization which doesn’t apply in some of the jobs such as bus drivers. “Saudization threatens our investments as it prevents us from recruiting qualified foreign skills when we don’t have the local equivalent,” she added.
Investors called on the authorities to provide support for this sector by developing a comprehensive developmental concept.
“We need to regulate this sector so it doesn’t only prioritize commercial goals,” Al-Qahtani declared, adding that higher bids sometimes mean more qualitative projects which eventually lead to good profits.
© Arab News 2014