* With schools still closed, children wander streets
* University to remain shut until Gaddafi goes
* Teachers unpaid, rebels say school books need rewrite
By Maria Golovnina
BENGHAZI, Libya, June 21 Ruwid Omar, a Libyan
boy with a mop of sun-kissed hair, spends his days roaming the
streets of Benghazi singing rebel songs, waving opposition flags
and chatting to foreign visitors in fluent English.
"I lived in Manchester for eight years with my parents
before. But I like Benghazi better actually," he said, squinting
in the bright sun outside Benghazi's courthouse building -- a
symbol of Libya's revolt against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
"I like the revolution. We are here (in the square) all day
or at home watching TV," added the 14-year-old.
Schools have been closed in Libya's rebel-held east since
the start of the uprising in February, and children like Ruwid
have been largely left to their own devices.
Keen to distract students from a deadlocked war, the rebel
leadership based in the sprawling coastal city wants to reopen
schools and universities as soon as possible.
But that is proving hard. Security remains a concern in a
city awash with firearms, and rebel leaders have given no firm
timeline as to when education might resume.
Before, the curriculum was packed with classes praising "our
dear Brother Leader". Pupils spent hours studying the Green
Book, a collection of Gaddafi's ramblings on life and politics.
Schools were designed in a way that discouraged children and
teachers from asking questions and challenging authority.
Rebels want to change that, even though weeding out Gaddafi
sayings from textbooks and reshaping the curriculum will take
time. Retraining teachers, long used to following orders rather
than their professional instincts, is also tough.
"We hope to reopen them soon," rebel education minister
Suleiman al-Sahli told Reuters. "We are still discussing this."
Restarting schools and universities will highlight the rebel
authority's resolve to bring back normality to a city scarred by
fighting. But teachers said they did not expect that to happen
any time soon as the war drags on listlessly into a fifth month.
"We cannot start our studies until the (Gaddafi) regime
collapses completely," said Dr Bubaker F. Shareia, executive
general director of Benghazi's Garyounis University. "No one
knows when this will happen."
"RAISE YOUR HEADS"
Some Benghazi schools have opened unofficially -- part of a
broader grassroots movement that has seen volunteers set up
civilian committees to tackle issues from security to education
in a city prey to lawlessness and sporadic violence.
At the Fatma az-Zahra school, volunteers gather pupils
several times a week to explain to them what is happening in
their home city, and teach some basic lessons.
Sitting in the shade of the school's patio festooned with
rebel flags, children chanted "We are Libyans, raise your heads,
be proud" and "Muammar, you will see what we can do to you".
Their voices echoed around the school's empty corridors. In
one classroom, an English language textbook was left lying open
on the side of a desk by an open window, its pages flapping in
the wind blowing in from the Mediterranean.
"People in Tripoli are not as friendly as people in
Benghazi," was scribbled on one page under an exercise called
"Compare places in Libya".
"There is no school now so we just come here to draw and
make songs against Muammar," said Nur Alhuda Ali, a 13-year-old
girl. "Before I didn't know about Gaddafi but after the
revolution I can see that everyone hates him. So Gaddafi must be
a very bad person. Otherwise why would everyone hate him?"
Some said their parents made them study at home to
compensate for the lack of official schooling.
History was distorted under Gaddafi's rule, creating a
peculiar universe in which Libya was juxtaposed against a
hostile world trying to destroy its post-colonial achievements.
Many textbooks on social studies will now have to be
rewritten completely, rebels say. To achieve this, university
professors have set up a research centre to tackle issues such
as the overhaul of textbooks. But the process is not easy.
"We're trying to figure out what we need to fix and how to
do it," said Omar Salabi, a senior figure there. "There was no
civil society before. We have to change the way people think."
Many students are away, having taken up arms to fight
Gaddafi troops on the front line. At least 100 students from
Garyounis University have been killed and many more are missing.
Money is another problem in a sector which relies on state
salaries. With oil output at a standstill, the rebel authority
is broke, and no wages were paid at Garyounis University in May.
Pointing at the walls of his office dotted with nail holes
where Gaddafi portraits used to hang, Dr Shareia said people
were determined to make it work despite all the difficulties.
"When I look at my students I can see they are different. In
the past they were nervous," he said. "Now they are happy to
discuss things. They are helpful. It's nice to see how people
can change. I think it's because they have hope."