By Libya Herald reporters.
Benghazi/Tripoli, 22 October 2016:
Schools across the country are due to finally reopen on Monday for the new academic year, some eight weeks late.
In Benghazi, largely quiet today after yesterday’s renewed clashes in Ghwarsha, parents have out over the past few days, buying books, pens, school uniforms and other necessary supplies. Shops in the city are expected to be packed today in a final shopping rush. With Sunday a public holiday – Liberation Day, celebrating the end of the Qaddafi’s regime – shops and businesses across the country will be closed.
In Tripoli though, there are still no new textbooks, despite the efforts of Mayor Abdulraouf Beitelmal. There are plenty of books in the east, where the government of Abdullah Thinni found funds to print them, and Beitelmal was in Beida recently where he managed to negotiate the transfer of sufficient numbers of them to the west of the country. However, this has not happened.
According to one source, this is because the books have to be air freighted but, weighing many tonnes, the cargo capacity of passenger planes flying between the east and west of Libya is insufficient for the task. The Libyan National Army’s air force has a cargo plane but, apparently, it is worried that it could be seized at Mitiga airport if it were used.
The lack of new books was used as the main reason for delaying the start of the academic year. This, however, has drawn criticism from several officials.
“The issue of the school books was no reason to postpone the school term,” said Otman Gajiji, head of the Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections. “Teachers don’t need the new books to start the term. They could improvise. They could have got copies electronically from the east and then photocopied them.”
The resulting delays were damaging students, he stated, noting that they had already lost two months and they would lose more at the other end of the academic year because of Ramadan coming earlier in 2017.
“Municipal councils should also have done more,” he added, saying that they could have been in touch with colleagues in the east to obtain the books for their districts.
As a result of the delays, some parents in Benghazi and elsewhere have moved their children to private schools, but the fees are high.
In the city, even with the textbooks though, schools will be stretched to provide classes for all the students. In Gwarsha and Ganfouda schools remain closed because of the clashes while in other parts of the city, some are seriously damaged. Others are being used to house people displaced from areas of conflict.
Despite the continuing clashes in Gwarsha and Ganfouda, the reopening of the schools is, nonetheless, expected to be seen as further evidence of returning normality.
As part of efforts to convey that impression, the LNA appointed mayor of the city, Ahmed Al-Oraibi, this week ordered the reopening of the road known as the “carpet factory bridge road” linking Fuwayhat and Beloun. It re-opened on Thursday. It has been closed for two years.
In yet a further sign of normality, not only are policemen back on the streets, policewomen top are now seen back at work.