“I cannot describe with words what music means to me. I am going to explain it to you with sound,” says Zahra Al-Tabal, who teaches at Al Ribat primary school in Tripoli. She picks up the accordion and plays a bright melody.
Founded in 1969, Al Ribat school was built to accommodate 600 students, however since 2011, repeated conflicts have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, which brought new students through the doors. The classrooms became crowded and there was no space for music lessons.
Zahra Al-Tabal has taught at the school for 34 years. During this time, neither the conflict nor the neglected maintenance of the buildings made her lose the drive to give her students the best musical education she could.
In recent years this has meant teaching in any space she could find.
“Sometimes I taught students in a bookstore, other times in the corridors. Nothing prevented me and the students from practicing. Their passion helped them win first prize in competitions throughout the district,” she says proudly.
Tripoli Centre is a municipality facing enormous challenges in accommodating the increasing numbers of people who’ve been driven here through insecurity. More than 160,000 citizens now live there, which makes it difficult for local authorities to ensure a proper learning environment at the 65 basic and secondary education facilities.
“We, the local authorities, have limited capacity to maintain the educational facilities, especially because of the instability in the country and the rising costs,” said Sara El-Noumi, municipality under-secretary.
The school management team decided to expand by building new rooms on the upper floor. They got support from the local community, which contributed financially to the construction.
“Parents, teachers and the entire community made the effort to improve learning conditions of our children,” said Mohamed Wahiba, the school’s principal. “We were trying not only to provide educational lessons but also to improve the students’ motivation, self-confidence, and willingness to study.”
Unfortunately, their efforts were not enough and the rehabilitation remained frustratingly incomplete.
The UNDP-implemented Stabilization Facility for Libya (SFL) stepped in to support the students and teachers and finish construction.
Led by national and municipal Libyan institutions, two classrooms, a science lab, and a space for extra-curricular activities were built.
Funded by a broad coalition of international donors, the Stabilization Facility for Libya is designed to provide quick rehabilitation of critical infrastructure and to deliver vital equipment to local authorities. It began in 2016 with a budget of more than US$61 million. With more than 285 investment projects in seven cities, it has so far benefited more than two million people.
The work at Al Rabat school was supported by the local authorities and the educational institutions representatives of Tripoli Centre Municipality.
“All the SFL’s school projects in Tripoli Centre were completed on time, meeting high international standards. They have contributed to improving the learning environment for our students,” said Sara El-Noumi.
Teachers are delighted with the improvements to, which they have no doubt will help their both their students’ academic performances and morale.
“We are very grateful for this support, which will certainly help the students’ learning process. The science lab will definitely improve education in the school,” says Mohammed, a teacher.
Zahra is just grateful that her days of teaching in corridors are over.
“During all those years, my great wish was to train my students in a proper music classroom at the school,” she says. “I cannot describe how happy I am to finally have this space. Everything has changed for good.”
Story and photos by UNDP Libya.