News / Africa

Libyan Children Struggle to Cope With Conflict

The few classes that are in session are light on studying,  Benghazi (File Photo - June 26, 2011)
The few classes that are in session are light on studying, Benghazi (File Photo - June 26, 2011)


Elizabeth Arrott

War's effects are often hardest on children, and the conflict in Libya is proving no exception. In this rebel stronghold, efforts are being made to help children cope.

Life in camps

A group of children play a pick-up match of football at the end of small drive. They shout, scramble for the ball, shove a bit harder than strictly necessary - in other words, a normal scene.  What's unusual is that these children are living in a refugee camp, having fled government attacks in their home towns.

Children play outside their grafitti-covered school yard, closed for months after the uprising, Benghazi (File Photo - June 26, 2011)
Children play outside their grafitti-covered school yard, closed for months after the uprising, Benghazi (File Photo - June 26, 2011)

The Red Crescent's Marei Abdel Salam el Jeouda is a director at the camp and remarks on the progress toward normalcy the children have made.

He remembers what it was like when the children came a few months ago and counselors encouraged them to draw what they had seen. The results were missiles, fighter planes, destroyed houses. Slowly that changed. Now, he says, they draw nature - the trees and the sea.

Lifes on hold

The children at the camp have come from farther west, and while they can play with ease, they know they are not likely to go home soon.

Even for children who have always lived in Benghazi, with its now relative calm, life, in some ways, is also on hold.

Schools were closed at the beginning of the uprising, leaving students without structure and with plenty of time to dwell on the fighting around them. In recent weeks, a few schools have begun to reopen, with the hope of filling the void.


At a school in the Garden City district of the rebel capital, some of the students have returned for a few hours of classes. But not all are ready to come back. Hussein Mohamed al Awami is a former headmaster who came out of retirement to help.

Libyan girls in traditional dress, Benghazi (File Photo - June 25, 2011)
Libyan girls in traditional dress, Benghazi (File Photo - June 25, 2011)

He says some parents are keeping their children at home, worried for their safety because of the continued shootings and other disturbances in the city.  For those who do come, the classes are limited.  Arts and crafts seem to be the order of the day.

In one classroom, a teacher demonstrates how to make a box out of old CD's.  In another, the instructors pass out pencils and the children begin to draw. It may not be academically intensive, but it keeps them busy.

Gadhafi's curriculum

It also provides a clean break from the education system put in place by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi which, like many things in the country, highlighted the man and his works. Elementary student Yasser sits outside on a park swing, recalling his classes before the uprising.

The ten-year-old says he studied social science, especially housing and building projects. He adds he didn't learn very much. Nearby, Adel, a father of two boys, explains what high school was like for him, with the compulsory teaching of Gadhafi's manifesto, the Green Book.

"If you are told that you have to learn that 'a hen lays eggs and a rooster doesn't' - this is a funny sentence to say, you know, in this day and age," he said. "Everybody can say these kinds of things and you don't have to be a great thinker to say them."

Given such questionable profundities, Adel says that he doesn't mind that his children's studies are disrupted. Among the many things he hopes for if Gadhafi leaves are new textbooks.

"Some of the things that we have to learn, if you tell them to anybody outside of Libya, he will laugh at you, he will think that the guy's crazy, you know," added Adel. "We had learn to learn stuff against the normal, human thinking."

Back over on the swing, young Yasser agrees. He says he just wants to study math.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs