Reports say more money and land is needed to achieve government target for new-build schools

More than 700 school construction projects are on hold in Saudi Arabia due to high costs and scarcity of land, it has emerged.

Of the 25,000 schools in the Saudi Arabian kingdom, 16,000 currently operate out of rented buildings – a figure the Saudi government pledged to reduce in November, by building 3,200 schools.

The kingdom’s education ministry has spent 6bn Saudi riyals (£10m) since 2003 buying 2,000 plots of land.

But regional newspaper The National has reported that more money and land is needed if the government is to provide permanent school buildings for the kingdom’s 1.7 million pupils - a target the undersecretary for the education minister, Abdul Rahman al Ahmad, has said is “one of the priorities of the ministry”.

The Saudi government, which can appropriate private land for public use, has assigned land on which to build the schools through its ministry of municipal and rural affairs.

Yet the designated land has, in some cases, been transferred to other owners.

Education spending in the kingdom has risen dramatically in the last decade: in the past year alone there has been a 12.8% increase in spending in the sector - from SR121.9bn (£20bn) to SR137.6bn (£22.7bn).