By Frances Mulraney
Libyan students in the country’s main university are preparing for a new term free from the rule of Colonel Gaddafi.
Tripoli University will open its doors to start an academic year having been delayed by political upheaval in the summer months. Staff are preparing the campus for Freshers week despite young men still carrying guns.
This will be the first time in 42 years that the university will not be controlled in some way by Gaddafi’s regime. The university was used to boost the fallen regimes agenda.
In the 70s and 80s students were forced to watch the public hangings of dissenters. Although these stopped years ago, repression still continued. Just two weeks ago, The Guardian reported a secret chamber under a lecture hall equipped with a gynaecological operating theatre which was officially sanctioned but illegal abortions were carried out.
Staff are calling out for vast changes to the curriculum to improve the academic standards and provide an education that was not possible under the old rule. The Transitional National Council has promised not only to reopen all universities in the country as soon as possible but to also to make vast improvements to the education system.
Speaking to University World News, Libyan students spoke of the lack of teaching materials, books and equipment at their colleges.
Libyan students studying abroad also felt the effects of the summer uprising. Many faced the possibility of being cut off financially and unable to complete their courses. Students enrolled in universities and colleges in Australia, Britain, Egypt, South Africa and the US and were due to face the suspension of their monthly stipend from the government in Tripoli.
The Australian government has provided a loan of 1.5 million Australian dollars to the Libyan Peoples Bureau in Canberra to assist over 650 sponsored Libyan students studying there, after the embassy ran out of money last month.
Students in the US and UK are also receiving some support. UK Foreign secretary William Hauge announced in July that they would do all they could to help some 8,000 Libyan students and dependants who were being sponsored by the Libyan government to study in the country.
The Department of Foreign Affairs still advises Irish citizens to avoid travel to Libya despite an improved security situation. Any Irish citizens currently residing in or visiting the country are also being advised to register their details with the Embassy of Ireland in Rome.
Nato have recently agreed to extend its campaign in Libya for citizens safety. Groups loyal to Gaddafi still maintain control in several towns including Gaddafi’s home town Sirte. The air and sea campaign is to be extended a further three months until it is felt that there is no threat posed to civilians anymore.