Libya Back To School, But Without Gaddafi Teachings

The Libyan schoolgirl can’t hide her giddiness as she sings a song with lyrics that would have been unthinkable just months ago.“Oh, Muammar the crazy,” she lilts, to applause from her classmates in the Al-Amir school in Benghazi. “How much he destroyed, how much he destroyed.”The school break has been longer than usual for many Libyan children this year. When the war against Gaddafi started, lessons stopped.Now, with the rebels victorious and a new government installed, the schools are gradually reopening. Security and funding are a worry, but a bigger task is reforming an education system dominated for decades by the teachings and the theories of an eccentric leader.Required reading in Gaddafi-era schools was his “Green Book,” containing the ousted ruler’s musings on politics, economics and everyday life. On their way to class pupils filed past portraits of the man they were instructed to call “our dear brother leader.”One of the first things the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) did after taking up arms against Gaddafi was set up a committee to expunge his “teachings” from the curriculum.“We have many changes this year, including even the names of the schools,” Fawzia Bouzeriba, a headteacher for 30 years, told Reuters.“The course of Al-Mujtama Al-Jamahiri (Society of the masses) inspired by the Green Book was abolished,” she said.Another Benghazi headmaster, Khadiga Al-Mismary, said many history lessons had been scrapped in their entirety — and for good. SOME CHILDREN STILL AT HOME Opening the schools on time has been difficult, with some badly damaged and others serving as makeshift prisons and hospitals.Safety is a concern, families have been displaced and many pupils have lost months of work.“We’re not beginning a new year yet, we’re going to complete the second semester of the last year and then we’ll start a new year,” Bouzeriba said. Some parents fear a return to violence and are still keeping their children at home, teachers said.“The number of students is increasing steadily and we expect all the students to show up at the beginning of the second week,” said Al-Mismary, who runs a 520-pupil school.
She said she has asked NTC soldiers to drop by a few times a day to reassure the parents.The Benghazi teachers are re-opening the schools even though they have not been paid for months. But most say they understand the new government is struggling for cash as it tries to get the country running again.“This is not a big issue for us and we expect it to be settled soon,” said Al-Mismary. The bigger issue, the teachers said, will be finding lessons to replace some of the teachings of Gaddafi, though much of it will just be scrapped and the time allocated to other subjects like mathematics.“It was marginal and political material, so no need to replace it with an alternative,” said Abdel kafi Al-Kawafi, head of the NTC committee drawing up the new curriculum in Benghazi. History will take some work, however, he admitted, Gaddafi having ensured he was portrayed as the great hero of Libya.“We have committees working on that now but time will be our biggest challenge,” Al-Kawafi said.