Libya’s current rulers along with local rebels ousted despot leader Muammar Qaddafi from his 4-decade rule last year in a national uprising against his regime. Now, they have also taken him out of school curricula all over the country.
During the Qaddafi-era, it was mandatory for schools to display a picture of their leader and his unique political and social ideologies were fundamentals of school textbooks.
The Green Book, which contained such ideologies, included the political concept of “Jamahiriya” or “Masses”. Qaddafi imagined states with non-existent political parties, claiming that it was complete democracy which encouraged all Libyans to participate in local committees. It was apparent that reality contradicted the concept itself.
Certain subjects like history had to be re-written, while others remained as they were, but one subject had to be eliminated completely.
‘Jamahiriya education and political culture’ taught young children to glorify Qaddafi as a character and as a political leader.
Suleiman Khoja, deputy education minister, said that subject has now been replaced with National education which highlights the values of the Feb. 17 revolution such as human rights, political parties and issues of a new Libya.
In the April 15 School in the capital of Tripoli, the only remaining evidence of Qaddafi is a picture which is being used as a doormat.
The school’s name refers to the U.S. airstrike on Qaddafi’s compound in 1986. But head teacher Najiba al-Azzabi said the school has applied to change the name to Aug. 20 to commemorate the day when anti-Qaddafi forces charged the capital.
She said that the curriculum was very distorted during Qaddafi’s rule, and that history in particular should be a subject taught in complete honesty because generations that come must learn of the past.
While many schools closed down during last year’s unrest, those in areas under Qaddafi’s control remained open.
Students like 14-year-old Taaj Abdul Maheed and 12-year-old Hassan Abdul Razzak are more motivated to attend classes now because they have more freedom to learn and are no longer forced to participate in singing the anthem or learn from the Green Book.
“Education is now better than it was before. Teachers now explain things better. They weren’t very motivated to teach us in the past, because they had to teach us things which Muammar (Qaddafi) wanted them to teach, which were all wrong. History was all wrong, and now they’ve changed it and it’s right,” she said.
The current government has paid for student textbooks in a bid to increase education expenditure. It also hopes to provide more student grants and accommodation funds for university students.
Despite free education offered during the Qaddafi era which contributed the country to having one of the highest literacy rates in Libya, many still wished that more money was spent on education given the relative wealth and low population of the country.