At least 1.2 million Libyan pupils are set to return to school tomorrow, almost a year after they evacuated their classrooms during the country’s popular uprising against the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported today.
The agency said about 27 million textbooks are being printed by Libya’s education ministry and 10 million have already been distributed in anticipation of the return to school.
But a shortage of both books and desks remain, and transport to and from school is also lacking for many children.
“This is a massive operation and a huge achievement for the people of Libya,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa in a statement released today.
“At a time of great hope and upheaval, no sector has more potential than education to improve society and restore normalcy for children.”
Libyan authorities, supported by UNICEF and others, have worked to clear rubble, landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from schools and to rehabilitate many of the buildings and other infrastructure.
Children who have been distressed by the conflict have been given psycho-social support and mechanisms are in place to ensure that vulnerable children are enrolled in classes.
A survey will also take place later this month to amass data on equipment, supplies, teaching materials, teachers and enrolment.
UNICEF reported that Libya has relatively good education indicators, but the country’s school system needs to be more responsive to minorities, children with disabilities and gender disparities.
Ms. Calivis stressed that investing in a more inclusive education system “is a first step towards building a tolerant and productive society.”