Saudi Arabia has announced a new plan to close all schools and close all educational institutions for girls in the kingdom.
In a new move, the kingdom announced on Saturday it will close all public schools in the country by the end of the year and close schools and colleges in rural areas, in a bid to cut the population of the country’s 2.5 million female students by half.
The move comes after Saudi Arabia’s education ministry released a document in August 2015 that called for closing all schools by the beginning of 2021.
The ministry also said schools will be closed on the first Friday of every month for the next two years.
A ministry official told Reuters the kingdom would close all the schools it deems to be in the most risk of losing students.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the government did not comment on individual cases.
The ministry has announced that women will have the right to attend public schools starting from 2019, but the new plan does not specify a date for that.
The kingdom has faced growing criticism from human rights groups and others for its treatment of women, who often suffer from discrimination.
The country is a leading producer of counterfeit drugs, and many countries have cracked down on the production of the products to curb the supply.
Saudi Arabia is also accused of using child labor to produce some of its products.
Last month, a Saudi court ruled that a young girl and her mother had been sentenced to a year in prison and fined 3 million riyals ($3,500) after being convicted of using fake IDs and a fake passport to buy fake medical treatments in the United Arab Emirates.
The government has also launched a campaign to raise awareness about the countrys child marriage problem.
“The Saudi government will not allow a single girl to be married and we have decided to remove the veil of Islam from every woman in the Kingdom, including girls who are only nine years old,” Education Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in a televised address on Saturday.
The decision came after a number of countries and rights groups have criticized the kingdom for its handling of the child marriage issue, which has led to a growing number of Saudi women in poverty.