Building Blocks for the Future
Dynamic Education Programme Makes a Difference for Libyan Students
“UNICEF has brought hope back to many students,” tells me Abu Qalela, a mathematics teacher at Qalet Alelim school, as he reflects on the summer remedial education supporting children’s recovery after COVID-19 school closures. “The courses restored children’s self-confidence in the wake of the hardships that dominated the academic education process for the past two years”. The impact of COVID-19 on children’s confidence in school and learning across Libya, and other countries, is significant, however, the focus on learning loss has led to overlooking the critical role of children’s confidence and social and emotional well-being in enabling them to address learning loss and continue learning.
Conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a severe toll on Libya’s education system. After more than six years of conflict, resulting in thousands of deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, we saw students falling behind, teachers stretched thin, and curricula remaining stagnant and focused on academic subjects and rote learning. Complicating matters further, in Spring 2020, due to the spread of COVID-19, school closures left more than 1.3 million students out of the classroom. With frequent internet cuts and a lack of access to computers, online classes were not an option for many, which left young people frustrated and without access to education.
To address this, in July 2022, UNICEF partnered with the Libyan Ministry of Education and offered interactive remedial summer school courses to over 20,000 students who have fallen behind and are at real risk of dropping out. The US government supported the remedial programme through the Mission Recovering Education in Humanitarian Countries program.
The courses used evidence-based participatory learning approaches and also focused on boosting the children’s confidence and resilience, using research in low and middle-income countries, from Ghana (Duflo et al., 2020) and Columbia (Marinelli et al., 2021), which highlighted that remedial education programmes provide students who have dropped behind with basic language, literacy, and mathematic skills and a strong foundation for future learning.
One of the children who benefitted from the remedial programme is eight-year-old Malak, who attends Qalet Alelim Elementary School in Tajoura. She fell behind with her schoolwork because she was unable to regularly attend school due to security risks and then COVID-19 school closures caused her to miss more time in the classroom. Her mother signed her up to take part in the remedial education programme. Since attending the summer school courses, she has made remarkable progress in the three core subjects offered – English, Arabic, and mathematics.
Mohammed is another student who had fallen behind academically and also lacked confidence in school and hesitated to speak English in the classroom. After participating in the remedial programme, he said: "I love my English lessons more now and I watch English cartoons at home so I can tell my teacher the new words I have learned.”
The teachers were critical to the success of the programme. UNICEF and the Libyan Ministry of Education worked directly with teachers to support them to use a variety of teaching methods and strategies. Malak’s mother, Mrs. Howida, is an Arabic teacher at a secondary school and when she witnessed her daughter’s transformation she decided to participate in the project. Teachers received mentoring on motivating students through interactive teaching methods, using a variety of methods to formatively assess children’s learning levels, and learned how to create inclusive classrooms, particularly for girls and children with disabilities.
Mrs. Hiba, an English teacher participating in the project said: “I believe that the way the courses were designed, adopting interactive education methods and the high flexibility of the curriculum, played a crucial role in the success of my course and boosted both my confidence and my students’ confidence.” Mrs. Hiba went on to say: “Personally, I have learned a lot from this project, including efficient teaching techniques. My skills improved thanks to the unique experience provided by the project. I’m confident that my students will start the new academic year with confidence and determination.”
The remedial programme reached more than 20,000 children in 100 schools in 18 different municipalities across Libya and I have seen the real impact on both students and teachers. With long-term conflict and an economic crisis leading to a constant state of flux and instability in Libya, remedial courses can usefully support children who are most impacted and safeguard their education. Building up the next generation of Libyan youth can help increase their engagement in civic and political life and lead to positive change in their communities and their country.