Friday, 27 April 2012

Challenges to learning in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Just came back from Riyadh teaching about eighty Saudi Diabetes Educators. We were invited by the Saudi Society for Endocrinology and Metabolism - with all the appropriate permissions from the Saudi Ministry of Health - to deliver a week-long Diabetes Educator Course. It was thoroughly enjoyable and an honour to meet the many nurses, pharmacists and dietitians in a Diabetes Educators Course. It was a first trial of international collaboration in teaching for the society and only possible because of our association with BMJ Group, University of Leicester and the support of MSD.

with some of the Diabetes Educators
The faculty (Dr Eleanor Kennedy - previous research director for Diabetes UK, Dr Gill Hood - manager of NE London Diabetes Research Network , Annie Hutchings - Senior Administrator BMJ Diabetes Diploma course, Dr Magdy Megalla - physician from Alexandria in Egypt, Dr Ebtesam Ba-Essa - physician in Saudi) were fantastic and we were joined by the president and vice president of the Society, and an experienced Diabetes Educator from Riyadh.

Speaker's view of a Saudi Lecture
You would think that a physical dividing screen in the room and no male / female mixing in small group discussions would be a barrier to teaching. However, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia this division is a necessary restriction that is accepted as normal by attendees and enforced by the venue's management. It is not negotiable. In fact, with time, we became accustomed to it and it is relatively easy to stand in the middle of the stage so that you are visible to everyone in the audience. Minor adjustments of the screen are allowed to ensure there is good visibility of the speaker. Sharing and wider discussion can occur with a portable microphone and encouragement of learner presentations at plenary sessions.

Drs Al-Ruhaily (president SSEM) and Dr Ba-Essa
The real barrier (to diabetes care) on this course was the challenge faced by the Diabetes Educators in their workplace. Most lacked recognition of their role, a job description and a career path. This course was designed to help address this by raising the profile of the Diabetes Educators' role and offer a subsequent distance learning course in diabetes with BMJ Learning / University of Leicester leading to a postgraduate certificate or diploma in diabetes.

We had to be flexible with the agenda since lunch and coffee breaks were adjusted to match the variable prayer times.

To allow the ladies in the faculty the opportunity to relax in the evenings Annie researched and found a women-only hotel. This means they were able to use the swimming pool which is not possible in any of the other hotels in Riyadh.

The feedback from the course is probably best summed up by one of the students who kindly agreed to being filmed on the last day. He speaks in Arabic first then in English at the end.

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