Omani youth participate in State Council Education Committee session

Teens describe experience of online learning during COVID-19 outbreak and present ideas for improving distance learning in the future

05 December 2021
Kids on stage at State Council session Dec 2021
Five young participants take their place on the dias at the special session of the State Counci's Education Committee.

Eleven children recently attended a special session of the State Council’s Education Committee to discuss their experiences of distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak and their thoughts on how Oman can “build back better” as it recovers from the pandemic.

The 1 December event was one of a series to celebrate the 75th anniversary of UNICEF globally and the 50th anniversary of UNICEF in Oman. It was organized in conjunction with Children First Association (CFA), UNICEF Oman, the ministries of education and information, and the State Council.

Oman, along with many countries around with world, went into lockdown in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which included the shuttering of all educational institutions. Schools re-opened on 1 November 2020 with the Government designating the 2020-21 academic year a “hybrid learning” year combining distance learning and in-classroom learning. Schools re-opened on 19 September for the 2021-22 academic year, with teaching taking place face to face in 90 per cent of cases in addition to blended learning according to the capacity and student density of schools.   

With one child acting as facilitator, five girls and five boys aged 14-18 delivered their statements in the Education Committee session. This was followed by a discussion. The first half of the session focused on describing their education experiences during the COVID-19 outbreak and the second half was devoted to presenting ideas on distance learning in the future.

 Sheikh Alkhattab bin Ghalib Alhinai, Deputy Chairman of Oman's State Council
Sheikh Alkhattab bin Ghalib Alhinai, Deputy Chairman of Oman's State Council, responds the points young people put to him at the special session of the Education Committee.

"I want to thank all the kids for their brilliant ideas and opinions," said Sheikh Alkhattab bin Ghalib Alhinai, Deputy Chairman of Oman's State Council. "Online education was a new experience for us but we managed to make it as similar as possible to the traditional learning process where teachers used the technology available to give live lectures and make learning as interactive as possible.

"I am very pleased with this discussion, and especially pleased with our young people and the ideas they have and the way they presented them. Their suggestions will be taken into consideration and we will invite them in the future to attend the meetings of the Education Committee."

Also present at the State Council session was Her Highness Sayyida Dr Mona Fahd Al-Said, Founder and  Chair of CFA. 

"I hope such events where we hear from young people about what matters to them can happen regularly," she said. "One of the students suggested that we should consult with them when deciding about online learning: whether to continue with online learning, or in-person learning or a combination of both. I agree 100 per cent: It is their future and they should have a say in decisions that will affect that future."

After the session concluded, UNICEF spoke to four of the participants to find out what they appreciated about presenting to the State Council and their thoughts about online learning.  

State Council Elaf

"Today’s event provided us with a great opportunity to describe to the State Council the thoughts and experiences of students of online learning to help improve education in Oman."

Tenth grader Elaf

Online learning provided an excellent opportunity to use and appreciate technology.

Twelfth grader Bashar
State Council Dec 2021 Bashar
State Council Dec 2021 Maryam

We gained new skills from learning online. I’d be happy continuing learning online – especially now we have some experience with it.

Twelfth grader Maryam

Overall, distance learning went fine for me thanks to my school for preparing us properly and providing us with the equipment we needed. I was also aware of the all the extra effort our teachers put into their work to make sure we got the most out of online learning.

Tenth grader Said
State Council Dec 2021 Said