Through an executive order, the national reconciliation government in Tripoli postponed the school year, which was scheduled to begin on 2 October for elementary and middle schools. However, the executive order, issued on 8 September did not offer any hints as to why.
Abdulqadir Bujlala, head of the Department of Educational Methods in the national reconciliation government offered some answers.
Mr. Bujlala, there is an ongoing debate about the beginning of the school year. Has the department of education come to an agreement about a specific start date?
Yes, we have agreed to launch the school year this year on 24 October, and the decision was supported by an official order from the Ministry of Education. The educational plan will not be affected by the delay, and the school curricula will be given without any restraints or reductions. However, the date of the final exam had to be pushed from June, which will coincide with Ramadan, to start after the Eid, two week after its supposed date. This will extend the school year period by adding two more weeks.
What caused this confusion?
The main obstacle we faced was the inability to provide schools books. To solve this problem, we worked on two parallel plans, which are printing books in the eastern part of the country and printing as much as we could in the western part, but unfortunately, our efforts to provide the books on time failed.
At the beginning of last school year, we sent shipments of school books from the west to the east at a time when printing houses there had already supplied the schools and the additional books were then stored in the east. This year however, until now, the department could not print the books here, and to make things worse, the department in the east asked us to provide five million Dinars (3.8 million USD) to transport the books back to the west. At that point, we offered to send trucks to bring the books, but we still have not received an answer.
You mentioned that you tried to print the books here, how much would it cost, and what is needed amount?
We ordered the printing house at the department to print around 30.5 million copies of 218 different books, at an estimated cost of 36 million Dinars (approximately, US $27.5 million). To confirm the order, I attended a number of meetings, the last of whom was with the Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Muitiq and the Central Bank Governor Al-Sadiq Al-Kabir to provide the funds for printing. All we ask for is providing credit for the printing house, and as soon as the credit is given, the house will begin the printing that will last for thirty days. Our exact need for this year is 20 million books. However, we would like to have 30 million so we can have a surplus for next year.
Back to the books stored in the east, how optimistic are you about the books arriving from there on schedule? And what is the story of the errors in the books that were printed in the east?
Optimism or a lack of has nothing to do with the issue. The problem is simply that the eastern region does not recognize the reconciliation government in Tripoli; therefore, officials there do not recognize any agreement about their obligation to provide us their surplus.
As for the printing errors; the books printed in the east have a number of errors in books like Arabic for six graders and Mathematics and Biology for seven graders. However, not all the books have errors, but the problem is that the ones that do were mixed with the correct books, which is causing confusion for many students.
Last year, students were asked to give back their books before they entered their exam halls, why did you not make use of the old books?
The students’ joy with the new schoolbook is priceless, and we do not want to deprive our students of it. Therefore, we have to work hard and to provide it by any means.
The department usually charges the students a certain amount of money for the books. Why are these revenues not being used to provide part of the needed books?
Who said that we charge students for the books? The students have the right to their schoolbooks, the books are given to students free, and any school administration that charges students is in violation of the law. The schools receive their books for free and they must give for free to the students.
Is the idea of downloading the books from the Internet a viable one?
The Internet service in Libya is generally weak. This solution may be available for some people, but it cannot be adopted across the board. However, there are stationary shops that seized the opportunity of the current crises and are selling books downloaded from the Internet; this is against the law and the authorities must follow these shops and confiscate the books.