Saudi students remember King Abdullah as advocate for education

Junior business major Nasser Alotaibi is from Saudi Arabia and was saddened by the passing of King Abdullah. Alotaibi said, “King Abdullah treated us as his children. That’s how he sent a lot of students to other countries to learn.” Photo credit: Salahadin Albutti

Saudi Chico State students are grieving the loss of a leader that played a pivotal role in helping them receive their education.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died on Jan. 23 at 90 years old from a lung infection. Abdullah ascended to the throne in 2005 and had been Saudi Arabia’s king for the past 10 years.

According to Frank Li, the director of the Office of International Education, there were a total of 231 students who came from Saudi Arabia in the 2013-14 school year.

For most of these students, the scholarship King Abdullah created in 2005, the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, helped pay for tuition, travel and other fees to make secondary education a possibility.

After being selected through a lottery system, Saudi students with a decent grade point average could enroll in the program. According to the Open Journal of Social Sciences, the selected students can choose from a list of majors that have been approved by the Saudi government so that an investment is made.

King Abdullah was also known for his participation in women’s rights, focusing on free health care for citizens and promoting education among Saudi youth.

Taha Ainaddin, senior, and Maytham Alhaddad, junior, both benefited from the scholarship program.

“King Abdullah was a good leader and helped contribute to the future of the youth,” Ainaddin said.

Ainaddin arrived to the U.S. in 2010 and has been under the scholarship for five years. He is also a member of the Saudi Student Association.

Alhaddad, also a member of the international student organization, has been working toward his degree in mechatronic engineering at Chico State.

Alhaddad arrived in the U.S. in 2012 and is also a recipient of the scholarship program. He is grateful for how the program has helped Saudi students, he said.

“He focused a lot on the young people and getting them educated,” Alhaddad said,

Creating a generation of college-educated students, King Abdullah’s efforts as the leader of Saudi Arabia have now been passed to his brother, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Michael Arias can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.