In Saudi Arabia, girls do not receive physical education in state schools, and private schools rarely include mandatory physical education classes. But, this will no longer be the case.
Minster of Education, Ahmad al-Issa, has issued a decree which lays down a physical education program for girls' schools, Saudi daily Okaz reported Tuesday afternoon.
According to the minister's decision, the program will be compliant with Islamic rules and will be implemented as of the upcoming school year.
In 2013, the kingdom's Shura Council (Consultative Assembly) asked the education ministry to study a physical education program for female students that would comply with Sharia principles.
The program has been approved and will come into effect in the upcoming school year, based on the minister's recently-announced decision.
The minister said the program will be implemented gradually until schools get the necessary equipment and qualified female physical education teachers.
The decision will see the formation of a supervisory committee headed by Dr. Haya al-Awad, a representative of the education ministry. The committee is expected to put together a document that sets the goals and guidelines of the program, forge an executive plan for its implementation, as well as train specialized teachers in coordination with universities.
Details of the program remain to be seen.
In a statement released online, the ministry of education stated that the decision comes in line with Vision 2030, which seeks to form a healthy society and increase the number of people who practice sports in the kingdom.
Saudis are welcoming the news with joy, with the hashtags #التعليم_تطبق_البدنيه_للبنات ([Ministry of] education applies physical education for girls) and #التربيه_البدنيه (Physical education) quickly trending in the kingdom.
People are hailing the decision as a victory
"The best decision."
A long-awaited verdict
"World cup, we are coming"
Health is key
In 2013, private girls' schools were allowed to hold sports activities for girls for the first time, under the condition of abiding by Sharia rules.
Earlier this year, the General Authority of Sports announced that women's gyms will be granted licenses, while the Saudi Shura Council recently encouraged the private sector to establish fitness centers for women.
Competitive sports are still off-limits, as no official sports clubs are open to women, according to The Huffington Post.
But, Saudi Arabia has seen significant progress when it comes to women in sports. The kingdom sent female athletes to compete for the first time at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
A 2015 study found that 73.7% of Saudi women are physically inactive. The impact is evident in the disproportionate rates of obesity between males and females in the kingdom. Forty-four percent of the adult Saudi female population is obese, compared to 26% of the male population.