September 2, 2011 / 10:48 AM / 8 years ago

Libyan schools set to reopen despite war, ruin

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan schools will reopen in mid-September despite bombed-out facilities, scarce transport and a curriculum until recently laden with Muammar Gaddafi’s eccentric philosophies, a rebel official said.

Libya’s de facto rulers have been under increasing pressure to impose order and restore basic state services like education across the war-battered North African country after ousting forces loyal to Gaddafi from the capital Tripoli last month. > “We’ve finished erasing all Gaddafi’s items from the curriculum - the Green Book, al-Mujtama al-Jamahiri,” rebel education chief Soliman el-Sahli said in an interview, listing some of the ousted leader’s works.

“Many items were compulsory for students and were used to sanctify Gaddafi,” he said, adding that schools were set to resume classes on September 17.

During his four decades in power, Gaddafi nurtured a personality cult that pervaded Libyans’ daily lives, including their textbooks.

At the top of the reading list was his Green Book, which laid out a philosophy inspired in part by socialism, Islam and Arab nationalism. The tome is now more likely to be burned than studied in Libya’s east.

A few months after the uprising began in February, rebels set up a committee of education experts to expunge Gaddafi’s theories from the curriculum and prepare for a new semester without the veteran leader, Sahli said.

More changes are planned. Under Gaddafi, instructors were often chosen for their loyalty rather than their competence, and the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) would like to change that approach, Sahli said.


“The people who rose under Gaddafi were unqualified. They were mainly from revolutionary committees or they were Gaddafi’s relatives,” he said, adding hiring policy would now focus on “specializations, experience and qualifications.”

Schools will also be able to teach more Western languages like French and English, which were often restricted or banned in the curriculum under Gaddafi, he said.

As part of a push to expand his influence in sub-Saharan Africa, the mercurial leader had tried to make students learn Hausa and Swahili about two years ago, but the initiative floundered because there weren’t enough teachers, Sahli said.

That effort now seems unlikely to be revived.

Revamping Libyan textbooks is just one of the challenges the new leaders face as they seek to establish themselves as a credible government and win the trust of Libyans eager to get on with their normal lives.

In Benghazi, machine gun-mounted pickup trucks linger alongside civilian sedans at traffic lights. In western cities like Misrata, which withstood a months-long siege, the damage is extensive and will take time to repair.

“There are schools that have been completely destroyed - in Misrata, Zawiya, Zintan,” Sahli said. “In Benghazi we need some upkeep, but just light upkeep. It won’t effect the continuation of studies.”

The council will need more money to provide transport for schoolchildren and to pay teachers’ salaries, Sahli said.

World leaders had been slowly unfreezing Libyan money abroad and on Thursday announced another $15 billion of Libyan assets would be freed up.

Even before the revolt, underfunding was a problem for Libyan schools, Sahli said.

“All the teachers in Libya have been in a very bad financial situation, bad enough that they have to find work outside of education,” he said. “It’s reached the point that a lot of jokes and comedy come out about the situation of teachers.”

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