Libyan students and teachers chant the revolution anthem at a school in Tripoli, instead of the oaths of allegiance to Muammar Qaddafi, in one of many changes in Libyan classrooms.
Libyan students and teachers chant the revolution anthem at a school in Tripoli, instead of the oaths of allegiance to Muammar Qaddafi, in one of many changes in Libyan classrooms.

Educators try to purge Qaddafi from Libya's schools

TRIPOLI // Within days of the death of Muammar Qaddafi, students at the Salam Hidli Al Mehan Al Chamila technical high school in Tripoli had their revolutionary handicrafts out on display for sale.

Speakers boomed post-Qaddafi tunes across the school's courtyard as students waved the new Libyan flag or brandished posters celebrating the new freedom. The walls of the courtyard were covered in portraits of people killed in the civil war.

Long tables along the perimeter were loaded with handmade goods - hats, books, cake, posters, purses - all in some way or other sporting the green, black and red of Free Libya.

"I was selling a necklace and bags and pictures to take the money and give it to the poor people whose houses are broken from Qaddafi," said Epthal Abu Bakker, 17, a student at the school.

Change is the watchword in Libya since the death of Qaddafi. A new prime minister has been named, a new transitional government is imminent and new portraits of fallen revolutionaries replace those of Qaddafi in public spaces.

Even more profound changes are happening in the nation's schools.

Over his more than four decades of dictatorship, Qaddafi used the schools to promote his ideology to citizens.

Now, the National Transitional Council has the huge task of purging all subjects, from primary to university level, of the dictator's influence.

Epthal's major at this school is fashion design but it was through her other subjects that she was exposed to Qaddafi - history, geography and Al Mujtama Al Jamahiri, a subject entirely dedicated to the study of Qaddafi's treatise on politics and civic life, the Green Book.

"We were obliged to read it," she said. "Every year, you read the same book about Muammar. They always talk about Muammar Qaddafi. He is the leader. He is the everything in the world, like he is a god, you know? Now we are free. We can say anything we want."

While Epthal and her school friends are embracing that freedom with their needles and thread, Libya's transitional Ministry of Education also has a lot of work to do.

"We don't want anything that signifies him, neither his name, his family, nor his symbols and signature green colour," said Mohammed Sawi, the director of the National Curriculum Reform Office in Tripoli.

Mr Sawi heads a team of 160 educators charged with rewriting curriculums throughout Libya's public schooling system.

First, subjects such as the one dedicated to the study of the Green Book have been cancelled. Schools already have burnt stockpiles of the book and only a few remaining copies of it lie among the piles of obsolete textbooks that line the corridors of the curriculum reform offices.

The next stage involves symbolic changes, such as removing the word "Jamahiri," a term invented by Qaddafi to describe his notion of a republic, as well as his regime logo from the covers of textbooks. Passages referring to him in school texts are also being taken out.

"The cover of the book, we changed it from 'Jamahiri' to just 'Libya'," said Amal Taher, who is helping to reform English-language curriculums.

Depending on the subject, more severe cuts and changes are required. In geography, maps were used to confuse people, not inform them.

"Qaddafi was afraid they could revolt at any time, so it was important that they feel far from each other," said the geographer Mahmoud Al Chawadi, who is working on geography syllabuses.

"So in the maps he created a big separation between east and west Libya to disorient people and make sure they felt divided, not united."

By January 14, the new curriculums and textbooks will be rolled out to the country's estimated 1 million students. But the larger goal - removing the lies Qaddafi preached through Libya's schools for four decades - may take quite a long time.

"I think a lot about the future of the students and the children of this country," said Brahim Al Hajaji, the principal at Epthal's school. "The big challenge is the little kids who love Qaddafi and don't know why they love him."

It was such pupils who threatened and beat up Epthal whenever she would criticise Qaddafi at school.

"They told me, 'Who are you to talk about the leader? You are nothing. You are only a bug in our eyes'," she said.

Now Epthal is free to express her opinions.

"We have to know. The children have to know what they missed before," she said.

"We have to learn about our grandparents' time and we have to understand how Qaddafi came to power and why he did what he did."

Green ambitions
  • Trees: 1,500 to be planted, replacing 300 felled ones, with veteran oaks protected
  • Lake: Brown's centrepiece to be cleaned of silt that makes it as shallow as 2.5cm
  • Biodiversity: Bat cave to be added and habitats designed for kingfishers and little grebes
  • Flood risk: Longer grass, deeper lake, restored ponds and absorbent paths all meant to siphon off water 

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Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

Key findings
  • Over a period of seven years, a team of scientists analysed dietary data from 50,000 North American adults.
  • Eating one or two meals a day was associated with a relative decrease in BMI, compared with three meals. Snacks count as a meal. Likewise, participants who ate more than three meals a day experienced an increase in BMI: the more meals a day, the greater the increase.
  • People who ate breakfast experienced a relative decrease in their BMI compared with “breakfast-skippers”.
  • Those who turned the eating day on its head to make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, did even better.
  • But scrapping dinner altogether gave the best results. The study found that the BMI of subjects who had a long overnight fast (of 18 hours or more) decreased when compared even with those who had a medium overnight fast, of between 12 and 17 hours.

Know your camel milk:
Flavour: Similar to goat’s milk, although less pungent. Vaguely sweet with a subtle, salty aftertaste.
Texture: Smooth and creamy, with a slightly thinner consistency than cow’s milk.
Use it: In your morning coffee, to add flavour to homemade ice cream and milk-heavy desserts, smoothies, spiced camel-milk hot chocolate.
Goes well with: chocolate and caramel, saffron, cardamom and cloves. Also works well with honey and dates.

Afro salons

For women:
Sisu Hair Salon, Jumeirah 1, Dubai
Boho Salon, Al Barsha South, Dubai
Moonlight, Al Falah Street, Abu Dhabi
For men:
MK Barbershop, Dar Al Wasl Mall, Dubai
Regency Saloon, Al Zahiyah, Abu Dhabi
Uptown Barbershop, Al Nasseriya, Sharjah

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Race card

6pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 – Group 1 (PA) $50,000 (Dirt) 1,600m
6.35pm: Dubai Racing Club Classic – Handicap (TB) $100,000 (D) 2,410m
7.10pm: Dubawi Stakes – Group 3 (TB) $150,000 (D) 1,200m
7.45pm: Jumeirah Classic Trial – Conditions (TB) $150,000 (Turf) 1,400m
8.20pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 – Group 2 (TB) $250,000 (D) 1,600m
8.55pm: Al Fahidi Fort – Group 2 (TB) $180,000 (T) 1,400m
9.30pm: Ertijaal Dubai Dash – Listed (TB) $100,000 (T) 1,000m

While you're here

First round
Emmanuel Macron: 51.1%
Francois Fillon: 24.2%
Jean-Luc Melenchon: 11.8%
Benoit Hamon: 7.0%
Marine Le Pen: 2.9%

Second round
Emmanuel Macron: 95.1%
Marine Le Pen: 4.9%


Directed by: Michael Fimognari

Starring: Lana Condor and Noah Centineo

Two stars

Ain Issa camp:
  • Established in 2016
  • Houses 13,309 people, 2,092 families, 62 per cent children
  • Of the adult population, 49 per cent men, 51 per cent women (not including foreigners annexe)
  • Most from Deir Ezzor and Raqqa
  • 950 foreigners linked to ISIS and their families
  • NGO Blumont runs camp management for the UN
  • One of the nine official (UN recognised) camps in the region

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