Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik on Tuesday issued royal directives to provide free laptops to Omanis enrolling for colleges and universities in the academic year starting in September.
The statement from the official Oman News Agency said the computers would be distributed to students in poor Omani families and those registered in the social security service.
About 43,000 higher education students have registered for the new academic year, of whom about 17 per cent will qualify under the initiative.
The news was welcomed by academics, who said the gesture would be well received by college and university students in such circumstances.
“It is a very generous gesture from the Sultan. Computer laptops are not cheap and students entering universities and colleges cannot do without them. Most of the low-income families have to stretch themselves to be able to afford laptops but now they don’t have to worry about it,” said Dr Khalfan Al Asmi, the dean of Modern College of Business and Science, in Muscat.
The low-income families fall into two categories. Families who earn less than 500 rials (Dh4,775) a month are in the first category, while the second have no income at all and rely on monthly welfare payments from the government. Such families normally live in social housing.
Students also welcomed the news, saying Sultan Haitham’s decision was “kind and well thought of”.
“My parents would not have afforded a computer laptop if it was not for this generous offer. My father is a security guard and there are six of us in the family. There is no way he could have paid for it,” said Zainab Al Sinawi, 18, who has enrolled for a business administration degree for the new academic year.
The laptops will be distributed by computer shops across the country to students who show their identification cards and are registered electronically in the social security system.
This academic year is expected to start on September 13 for most colleges and universities in Oman. All classes will be conducted online for the autumn semester, which will end in December.
“The laptops are much needed now because all classes are online. Without a computer, it is impossible to study. The laptop is not a luxury in this pandemic – it is vital, since we cannot attend physical classes in the universities,” said Maryam Al Mabsali, 18, who will start a computing degree course next month.
The Sultan’s decision is also a boon to computer suppliers across the country. The business lull in the pandemic period has restricted their sales.
“We are also thankful of His Majesty’s decision. Now we have a ready-made market to sell computers. Business has been very dull in the past few months,” Harish Patel, a supplier in Muscat, said.