Suspended From School For Acting: Life as an 8-year-old Girl in Saudi

Published September 20th, 2017 - 12:42 GMT
Mayar, aged 8, was suspended by her school for her fame as a social media actress (screenshot)
Mayar, aged 8, was suspended by her school for her fame as a social media actress (screenshot)
  • A young Saudi girl was suspended from school for "her fame"
  • The social media star was given an ultimatum by her principal: "leave or give up acting"
  • The story stirred controversy on social media in Saudi Arabia
  • Some saw it as the suppression of her gift, others saw it as the role of the school step in

 

by Rosie Alfatlawi

In Saudi Arabia you can be suspended from school for being a famous actor.

At least that is according to a story that is circulating on social media in the Gulf nation.

A child, eight-years-old, was suspended from school, and her guardian was compelled not to [allower her to] practice acting on YouTube and Snapchat.

The hashtag “a school suspends a student because she is an actress” has taken off in the ultra-conservative kingdom, which is governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

A video has emerged of the young girl in question, named on social media as “Mayar”, discussing what happened.

“Just now, I went to school [...] Suddenly, the principal called me, and I went to her,” the fifth year primary school pupil describes.

The teacher gave her an ultimatum: "give up acting or leave this school."

“I ask you: is there a law preventing me from practicing my hobby?” Mayar, who is a social media star, asks.

“She said it is because I am famous.”

Given prevailing conservative norms in Saudi society, debate raged on social media over the school’s actions.

Many criticized what they saw as the teacher going beyond the bounds of her authority.

It is up to you to make sure that the girl is clever, polite, smart, dutiful, participates in class and activities. As for outside of school, it’s none of your business.


 

The guardianship of some people is unreal - they interfere with others' freedom and choices in general. We wait for the Ministry of Education to give its view and for the punishment of the principal.

Others slammed the failure to support the young girl’s talent.

What is happening? You have even waged war against a young girl for her gift! And you ask where the extremists and the fanatics come from!

It is a disaster if the school has started to fight against a gift, innovation, creativity, and started to produce students that are like puppets, not thinking or creating.

Others, however, felt that it was the place of the school to step in.

School is an educational institution and when parents fail to raise their children properly, it is up to the school to protect the rest of the children from what the parents have done.

I sympathize with the teachers. If they are strict with the students, it is described as hardhanded. And if they are relaxed, it is described as neglect. We are a contradictory people in our decisions.

What talent are they talking about? A child repeats silly Whatsapp dialogues in what is clearly a case of exploitation from the mother, to make more money from advertising.

Strict religious laws and norms place restrictions on everyday life in Saudi Arabia, particularly for women, who are required to wear hijab and the long, black abaya covering.

 

 

Women must also gain a male guardian’s permission for many activities, and famously cannot drive.

However, a trend of gradual liberalization has seen some of the laws relaxed in recent years,  including allowing women to vote, compete in the Olympics and access public services without a guardian’s permission.

These breakthroughs have come partly as a result of social media campaigning by women’s rights activitists.


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