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At a glance: Libya

Communities band together to reopen schools damaged in the Libyan conflict

By Guy Hubbard

AJDABIYA, Libya, 17 October 2011 – Burnt out tanks, armoured cars and spent ammunition shells line the road between Benghazi and Ajdabiya, an apocalyptic landscape left by the battles that took place here only weeks ago. After residents of Ajdabiya fled the conflict, the military occupied the town’s abandoned schools, which, in turn, made them prime targets for attack.


UNICEF correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on the efforts made to reopen schools and make an education a priority in Libya.  Watch in RealPlayer


Nouran Mohammed, 14, carefully picked her way through the ruins of her classroom, one of many destroyed in the fighting. “When the war started here, one of the missiles hit here and came through the wall,” she said.

Banding together

In an endeavour to return children – safely – to the classroom, teachers, students and community members in Ajdabiya banded together to clear out the debris, and by the end of September, classes had resumed.

“People are so keen to have the children going back to school that, in some areas, the community around schools took care of cleaning out schools,” said Ms. Wafa Bugaighis of the Education Council in Benghazi.

Mr. Younis Agniwai Saleh, head teacher of the Alkadicia School in Ajdabiya, described one such community effort.

With support from the international NGO ACTED and other partners, UNICEF is currently helping to repair 30 damaged schools in Libya.

“Of course our school suffered damage as a result of the rockets fired into the school,” he said. “But the persistence of the people who were working in the school – be it administrators or the community – and by collecting donations, we were able to overcome all obstacles and reopen the school in September.”

Happy to be back

With support from the international NGO ACTED and other partners, UNICEF is currently helping to repair 12 damaged schools in Ajdabiya and 18 in Misrata – including Nouran’s classroom and Mr. Saleh’s school

Inside the damaged walls of Nouran’s school, she and her fellow students now sing the country's new national anthem. “I'm so happy to be back at school, to see my friends and to work towards the future of the new Libya,” she said, smiling.

Riding the tide of euphoria that has swept through many parts of the nation, Nouran and her peers speak of freedom, their rights and the future before them. To realize their full potential, however, they will need a proper education and a safe environment in which to learn. The community is working together to make this happen.

“Everybody wants to be part of the future of Libya,” said Ms. Bugaighis. “They all realize it will be through education.”



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