Due to a recent surge in Covid-19 cases in Libya, education authorities have suspended studies at most of the country’s universities and research institutes again until further notice.
“Given the bad epidemiological situation in many Libyan cities, the minister of education issued a decision to continue suspending studies until the end of this month so that the epidemiological situation can be checked by competent committees,” Ali Salem, director of the Communication and Information Office at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said in a phone call.
Libya’s Cabinet also decided to impose 12-hour lockdowns, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., in some cities, determined by the Ministry of Health, in order to confront the latest wave of the pandemic.
Covid-19 infections in Libya have been rising in recent weeks, with an average of nearly 2,400 new cases reported each day, according to the Reuters Covid-19 Tracker. As of July 28, the total number of cases in Libya since the pandemic began has hit more than 240,000, and more than 3,400 people have died from coronavirus-related causes.
“The epidemic sweeps the university and the city quickly, and the lockdown decision came in response to the poor health situation,” said Samia Abdelhamid, an assistant professor of psychology at Misurata University, who became infected with the virus a few days ago.
Three universities, however, were allowed to continue their classes because they are located in cities with low infection rates so far, Salem said. They are Omar Al-Mukhtar University, Tobruk University and the University of Benghazi.
“The epidemic sweeps the university and the city quickly, and the lockdown decision came in response to the poor health situation.”Samia Abdelhamid
An assistant professor of psychology at Misurata University
“These universities will hold exams and end the school year” on schedule, Salem said, provided that the Ministry of Health determines that their locations remain relatively free of infection. In addition, the universities will be required “to take all precautionary measures into consideration and follow security and safety measures in order to safeguard students and workers,” he said.
The decision to shut down higher-education institutions further disrupts the educational process, especially since the Libyan government did not adopt an online learning system as an alternative educational system for logistical reasons. (See a related article, “The Shift to Online Education in the Arab World Is Intensifying Inequality.”)
Many believe that the solution lies in expanding and speeding up vaccinations against Covid-19 among universities’ faculty, staff and students. (See a related article, “Vaccinating Professors Against Covid-19 Should Be a Priority, Advocates Argue.”) So far, less than 4 percent of Libya’s population of 7 million has been vaccinated, according to Reuters.
A special committee formed by Libya’s Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Higher Education is scheduled to meet on August 1 to discuss whether to extend the lockdown period or allow universities to hold examinations.
“If we were able, through a very large vaccination campaign at the level of Libyan universities, to vaccinate faculty and staff as a first stage, we could complete the academic year while obligating everyone to take precautionary measures,” said Salem.