Central water desalination station opened in Oman’s wilayat of Sur

Arab education ministers conference concluded in Muscat with recommendations to develop education

Oman’s information minister Rashdi sponsors inauguration of 6th Muscat Film Festival

Sultanate ranks 3rd best Arab tourist destination

The Sur central water desalination plant and water supply network for the Al Sharqiyah region was opened this week at a ceremony held under the auspices of HH Sayyid Fatiq Bin Fahr Al Said in the presence of Their Highnesses, ministers, advisers and undersecretaries. The cost stood at 107.63,485 million rials.

Addressing the gathering, HE Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Mahrouqi, Chairman of the Public Authority for Electricity and Water, said that the cost of the water desalination plant, fully financed by the private sector, stood at 58 million rials.

The plant’s production capacity is estimated to 80 million liter.

The eight-unit reversed-osmosis desalination plant is energy cost-effective. It comprised of the prime filtration unit, water collection tankers, chemical process unit, monitoring and control system and plant’s management and operation building. It also comprises more than 30 shore-wells and 10,100 prime and minor membrane for desalination, he added.

In parallel to the construction of the desalination plant, the government has constructed a water supply network to the wilayats of Al Sharqiyah region whose cost stood at 49,36,485 rials. A 320-km-long major water supply line with accessories has been extended to link the water desalination plant with all wilayats of Al Sharqiyah region, Al Mahrouqi added.

Construction of the water desalination plant in the wilayat of Sur and water supply network to the wilayats of Al Sharqiyah region reflects the government’s keenness to involve the private sector in the infrastructural projects, he said.

“The water supply network expands from the Wilayat of Sur to the Wilayat of Al Mudhaibi crossing the Wilayats of Al Kamil Wa Al Wafi, Jaalan Bani Bu Hassan and Bani Bu Ali, Wadi Jaalan Bani Khalid, Bidiyah, Al Qabil and Ibra. Fifteen major tankers for water collection with a storage capacity of around 800 to 6,000 cubic meters have been built, five major pumping stations with accessories, a number of stations for supplying water to transporting tankers, control and monitoring system and administration offices,” Mahrouqi added.

“The state-of-the-art water desalination plant is environment-friendly,” he said.

By the construction of water desalination plant and water supply network, the Public Authority for Electricity and Water seeks to utilize the sea water as a major source for potable water and to retain the groundwater as a strategic water resource.

It also seeks to yield potable water of high quality to meet the needs of wilayats of Al Sharqiyah region and cope with the growing number of population, urbanization and other human and industrial usages.

The quality of water produced at the desalination plant and distributed via the network is being checked daily to ensure that it meets the Oman’s potable water standards.

Meanwhile, the Arab ministerial conference on education, which concluded in Muscat this week, came out with a number of recommendations dealing with post-basic education.

The ministers at the conference said that the contents in portals should be made accessible in Arabic. Referring to the educational issues and references, volumes must be on demand to all Arab states. They should be distributed through public libraries and published through websites of the Arab League of Education, culture and science organization (Alecso) as well as the portals of the Arab states ministries.

The other important recommendations made at the concluding session include increasing exchange visits between the Arab states and educational leagues and organizations, making use of global experts’ centers such as the information technology and communications centre in Bahrain, and making use of international experience in reforming post-basic education. (Alecso will take this area into consideration).

The other recommendations were considering training teachers a dominant factor of the reform, implementing the domain of post-basic education based on the Arab states reform plan, in addition to establishing national plans to promote higher percentage, paying attention to streaming in post-basic education, creating tools to assist students in professional advisory, develop the stream of vocational and technical education and expanding the fields of higher education, supporting vocational and technical education to bridge the gap between the labor markets’ needs and the outcome of education.

HE Yahya Bin Saud Al Sulaimi, Minister of Education, delivered a speech on what had been discussed during the two-day conference. He thanked the organizing committees which worked tirelessly for the success of the conference.

Dr. Majid Al Noaimi, Minister of Education, Kingdom of Bahrain, pointed out that the ministers started to look ahead on several issues for enhancing post-basic education. In fact, the Sultanate provided many facilities for the success of the conference.

Lamis Mustafa Al Alami, Minister of Education of Palestine, said: “The importance of the conference lies in the fact that it is very essential to promote secondary education because that is the way to higher education. Not only that but after completing the basic education, it is important to stream students into different tracks because we know that children are different and we are calling for ‘education to all’.

In other words, we have to cater to the needs of different target groups. It is very important that our education should be flexible enough.

“It means if a student wants to join the vocational steam at one time in his/her life, they will like to go to the academic life and they need to gain more skills. We also talk about self-learning and life-long learning which means that we should cater to these skills. Life-long learning is a new concept and in fact, it is not intensively highlighted because it is not our key concept but this concept is locally valid in our cultures. It calls for continuous learning from birth to death.”

Dr. Abdul-Salam Mohammed Al Gofi, Minister of Education at Yemen, said that talking about quality in education was a fundamental issue and when we think of ensuring quality we need to talk about training, curricula and many other aspects.

In fact, many countries in the Arab world started reforming post-basic education such as the Sultanate which started promoting education a few years ago. Many conferences had been held in different countries in cooperation with the Alecso and UNESCO. The reform of post-basic education is regarded as a bridge to other fields for the best of our new generation, he said.

The conference emphasizes the importance of this stage of education in particular. It is the link between the outcome of post-basic education, higher education and the job market. For a long time, this education was linked to directing students to higher education regardless of the job market, training and vocational education. As a result, it was indicated that students lack competent skills needed for the labor market.

Therefore, the ministers of education took into account how to redefine education to narrow this gap by upgrading students’ competency. In fact, the job market needs particular skills to suite their demands. These skills can be provided to students not only to meet the job market needs but to go for further studies as well, the meeting observed.

The delegates regarded these skills as the core concept. The participants tried to find practical mechanisms to enable students to be in a smooth transition from schools to universities and also smooth transition from schools to job markets in the Arab world. Overall, there is a need to provide students with life-long learning skills to meet the labor market’s demands.

On the other hand, the Sixth Muscat International Film Festival (MIFF) opened with a flourish amidst the glitter of stars together with the sparkle of film personalities and celebrities at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel.

The festival was inaugurated by HE Hamed Bin Mohammed Al Rashdi, Minister for Information, in the presence of Dr. Khalid Abdulkareem Al Zadjali, director of the Film Society of Oman, high-level officials from ministries concerned and ambassadors and diplomats of several countries.

Among the stars and celebrities attending the gala event were Indian film star Amitabh Bachchan, Resul Pookutty, who won an Oscar for sound mixing in film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, Hollywood director Antonino Sucameli and Egyptian actress Magda Al Sabahe.

Addressing the gathering, Al Zadjali said: “The Film Society of Oman has been an integral part of the Omani film industry since its inception in 2002 and the Muscat Film Festival is the industry’s major event. This year’s festival is being organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, who have worked tirelessly together with the society members to bring in quality cinema.”

Al Zadjali also took the opportunity to welcome Amitabh Bachchan along with Omani actor Saleh Zaal, well-known Egyptian director Madkhour Thabit and Magda Al Sabahe, who are among the special honorees at this year’s festival.

Speaking on the occasion, Bachchan said: “This is my first visit to Oman. But seeing the beauty of this place and experiencing the warmth, hospitality and love of the Omani people, I can say with certainty that this will definitely not be my last visit.”

He expressed his thanks to the organizers of the festival and the people of Oman for bestowing such an honor upon him. “It fills me with great pride to be here among so many talented fellow actors and high-profile people from the world of cinema”.

More than that, it is a great honor to be chosen for such a prestigious award.”

The megastar and Bollywood icon also expressed his pleasure and happiness at having the opportunity to rub shoulders with some eminent personalities from the world of cinema from the Middle East and a lot from Oman as well.

On Sunday, Amitabh will be presented a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for his outstanding contribution to Indian cinema at a special felicitation ceremony at the same venue.

Over 20 countries are participating in the sixth festival. A total of 45 films have been entered for participation in the festival.

Furthermore, Oman has been chosen as one of the 10 'must visit' destinations for 2008 by concierge.com, the online travel web site.

The places on its annual list of the top 10 ‘It’ places shared a few common denominators - a new crop of hotels, protected natural appeal, and with enough substance to make a journey worthwhile. "Many of the destinations on this year's list have undergone a transformation," Peter J. Frank, editor-in-chief of www.concierge.com, observed.

The 10 best world tourist destinations are Mozambique; St. Lucia; Ecuador; Sicily; San Diego; Hainan Island, China; Oman; Puerto Escondido and the Oaxacan Coast in Mexico; and Paris.