|The Ministry of Education plans to open some of the schools at the end of September in Libya. However many IDP families, including Abdulhamza family from Brega, are seeking refuge in a primary school in Ajdabiya as the conflict continues.|
By Roshan Khadivi
BENGHAZI, Libya, 14 September 2011 – Unable to attend school due to the uprising in mid-February, Hesham, 10, has been temporarily minding a family-run shoe shop in Meydan Albaladya, near Benghazi’s city centre. The majority of schools have been closed across Libya since the first days of the conflict, affecting the lives of an estimated two million children.
“I can’t wait to see my friends and start school again,” said Hesham. “I am happy about the revolution but I want things to go back to normal soon.”
According to education authorities in Eastern Libya, there are total of 102 primary schools in Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Brega and surrounding areas.
“We are planning to open the schools on 17 September,” says Ms. Wafa Bugaighis, from the Education Council in Benghazi, overseeing activities in Eastern Libya.
Working with authorities in Tripoli and Benghazi, UNICEF is aiming to ensure that schools throughout Libya are open in September for the new school year. In Tripoli, UNICEF has met with the head of the Libya Stabilisation Response Team and community members to develop an action plan for the reopening of the schools in the Libyan capital.
|Hesham, 10, is temporarily minding a family-run shoe shop in Meydan Albaladya, near Benghazi’s city centre.The majority of schools have been closed across Libya since the fist days of the uprising in February affecting the lives of an estimated 2 million children.|
UNICEF has also initiated a technical Working Group with partners in Benghazi and is currently conducting an assessment to determine where the greatest needs are. In the interim, UNICEF will continue to engage with partners in supporting children’s clubs which have been opened in a number of schools in eastern Libya to provide children with a variety of recreational activities.
Concern over security
“Children’s lives have been severely disrupted in Libya,” explained Christian Balslev-Olesen, Head of UNICEF Libya Response Team. “Schools will bring a sense of normality and a routine, helping children and their families navigate through this difficult time.”
A number of challenges are being addressed before the start of the school year in Libya including mapping damage to school infrastructure and carrying out rehabilitation to ensure schools are safe and cleared of any explosive remnants of war.
Like countless parents in Libya, Ms. Awjilah is concerned about the security of her children. Her daughters attend the Shohada Mareka Janduba school in Kish neighborhood in Northwest of Benghazi and she worries about their safety.
“People in Libya want to see schools open,” said Ms. Awjilah “But we are also scared about the security situation.”
|Empty classrooms in Shohada Mareka Janduba school in Kish neighborhood, North-west of Benghazi (Eastern Libya). The majority of schools have been closed across Libya since the fist days of the uprising in February affecting the lives of an estimated 2 million children.|
Impact of conflict
The presence of landmines, abandoned munitions, and unexploded ordnances inside Libya continue to pose a serious threat to civilians - particularly children. UNICEF is coordinating with Mine Action partners to assess the damage to schools and ensure cleaning and clearing the schools of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). With UNICEF support, workshops with trained volunteers promoting awareness and understanding of the dangers related to ERW have taken place in Libya.
Small arms and munitions are also a widespread concern in Libya. UNICEF’s partners Handicap International and the Libyan boy scouts have now expanded awareness campaigns on the risks associated with small arms and light weapons.
The in-country fighting has forced thousands of families to flee their homes to other parts of the country in search of safety. Many families have taken refuge in school buildings. Some of their homes have been destroyed and others live near areas where pockets of fighting continue.
UNHCR estimates that there are approximately 218,000 IDPs in Libya.
Hesham is among the lucky ones going back to school at the end of September, but this will not be the story for many more young Libyans whose lives have been shattered by the fighting on the ground.