TRIPOLI, Libya — Since the 2011 collapse of the Gaddafi regime, education in Libya has suffered. According to Mustafa Fetouri of The National, 279,000 of the 1.2 million school-aged children are not enrolled. Refugees from across the country have overwhelmed some schools to the point of having a 40:1 student-teacher ratio. An estimated 250 schools have been abandoned due to war. Even the start of school was delayed a month because of security concerns and a shortage of books.
The EU and UNICEF have partnered with Libyan officials to pump 3.6 million Euro into efforts to improve education in Libya. This overarching goal, according to UNICEF, is “improving educational opportunities and social inclusion for young people in municipalities across Libya.”
Cities like Benghazi are in much need of aid. It is estimated that half of all school buildings have been damaged or destroyed by the war between rebels and the Libyan government over the past two years. In the city of Sirte, the entire population has been forced to evacuate due to war. Refugees have fled to cities like Tripoli and have overwhelmed education infrastructure there.
New books have not been purchased for schools across the country because of funding challenges. To rectify this, the Ministry of Education decided to release all schoolbooks online for free. Unfortunately, the current infrastructure limits access to these online materials due to an unreliable electricity grid and an extremely slow or non-existent Internet connection.
The shortage of books and lack of internet access do not represent the largest concern in Libya: security. Many parents do not send their children to school because of the instability surrounding their villages. A recent report by the Secretary-General of the U.N. said groups associated with ISIL held a graduation ceremony near Sirte in December for 85 fighters under the age of 16.
The aid package aims to give young soldiers the opportunity to return home and establish normalcy in their lives. The lack of security, constant eruptions of violence, and political feuding has brought perpetual instability to Libya according to Fetouri. He believes education in Libya has been the main victim affecting a majority of the population.
Fortunately, the partnership with the EU and UNICEF represents a new opportunity for education in Libya. The Libyan representatives involved with the deal are hopeful that through community-based projects across the country they can begin to improve education in Libya.
– Brian Faust