IT’S SUNDAY MORNING, the beginning of a new week in Tripoli. At Talaa Tawfiq, a school on the outskirts of the city, the grounds are buzzing with activity. Although it’s still winter, the Libyan sun warms the air. Kids play or eat their sandwiches during lunch, groups of teenagers wander the schoolyard. Business as usual, it seems. But Talaa Tawfiq, like schools across Libya, has gone through a revolution.
After eight months of war that killed tens of thousands and left large parts of the country’s cities in ruins, Libya is still picking up the pieces. And some of the greatest challenges remain in the country’s schools, which began opening soon after the fighting ended in October 2011. During Muammar Gaddafi’s 42 years in power, education, like much else in the country, was dictated from the top. Schools became places for Libya’s youth to learn the ideological fundamentals of the regime. With the dictatorship ousted, the Ministry of Education, currently under the National Transitional Council, is working with schools across the country to set the education system on a new track.
Talaa Tawfiq’s walls, once plastered with picture after picture of Gaddafi—the “Brother Leader”, as he preferred to be addressed—are now adorned altogether differently. The old dictator’s portrait has been replaced by brightly coloured revolutionary murals: a bird being released from a cage, variations of the new flag, slogans like “We shall never again be in chains” and “Freedom is more powerful than any weapon”.