Being A Student In Libya: 2016 vs 2017 – What Has Changed?

Libya is a country currently facing profound political instability, and this is inevitably impacting on higher education. The prolonged civil war and lack of government control mean that student and staff security is at risk. Although the situation improved since last year, 2017 still failed to bring certainties for Libyan students. Hostilities closed many of the universities around the country, and some students embraced alternative occupations. A severe cash crisis makes funding education even more challenging.

Libya currently doesn’t offer a secure climate for academic studies. The country’s legitimate government fails to control most of the territory, and the vacuum of power that followed the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi means that various organisations have taken over some of the cities, including important university centres.

Throughout the war, many campuses were transformed into barracks and strongholds. For example, the Benghazi University has still not been cleared of mines, booby-traps, and other improvised explosives. Classes are scheduled to re-open in September for what was once one of the most prestigious institutions not only of Libya but the entire Arab world. As hostilities faded away, the situation of 2017 is better than that of 2016. Other universities as well are planning to resume regular classes.

Political stability and its abundant oil reserves allowed Libya to go as far as to dedicate 32% percent of its budget to education in 1998. Everything changed in recent years as the war effort imposed severe budget cuts.

Libya struggled to recover, only to see its most prominent university professors going abroad to pursue opportunities that offered greater prospects of stability, and higher salaries. Not even the increased academic freedom that followed the fall of the Gadhafi regime made them stay. The weakness of the UN-backed Government of National Accord meant that salary money could not reach the territory in time, resulting in a significant strike in May 2017, which led to postponed final examinations.

Libya currently faces one of the biggest cash crises of its history and amongst the ones affected are Libyan students enrolled abroad. Most of them are unable to pay for tuition and have to either appeal to crowdfunding or just drop out.

Being a student in Libya is no longer a promise for the future. The complex conflict ravaging the African country is far from being over, and it resulted in many students to dropping out and pursuing a military career over earning a degree. Various factions fight to sign up young mercenaries offering them access to resources civilians don’t normally have. Ties with militia often led to numerous students unwillingly signing up with rebel groups and even terrorist organisations such as Islamic State.

However, many students chose to continue their academic involvement, despite the shortcomings. An unprecedented number of students’ clubs and organisations counteracted the increasing weakness of state-run universities. Overall, 2017 brought an accelerated progression towards normalisation, but the country still has a long way to go.



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