Some 181 colleges across Libya’s public and private universities will begin their academic year in-person in mid-October, under a new pandemic preparedness evaluation system adopted by the country’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. However, another 50 colleges will postpone the school year till the end of October after all preventive measures have been implemented.
“Study at Libya’s universities will start in the second half of October, based on the ministry’s decision, taking into consideration the need to follow the necessary preventive precautions,” said Muhammad Masoud Qanan, president of Nalut University, a public institution in western Libya. There are committees working in all colleges for evaluation and follow-up, Qanan said, after which a decision will be issued by the university president.
As of early October, Libya had recorded more than 340,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 4,600 deaths related to the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.
The New Assessment System
The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research announced the new assessment system in late August, after having been forced to close universities again due to a surge of cases in July. (See a related article, “Libya’s Universities Close Again Due to Covid-19.”)
“Study at Libya’s universities will start in the second half of October, based on the ministry’s decision, taking into consideration the need to follow the necessary preventive precautions.”Muhammad Masoud Qanan
President of Nalut University
The system is intended to allow universities to plan for a safe return of students to face-to-face, on-campus teaching in the new academic year. So far, 48 public and private universities have participated in the system.
The evaluation is carried out through an electronic form filled out by special follow-up committees at faculties within the universities. Accordingly, the ability of these universities to provide precautionary measures to confront Covid-19 can be determined.
The system classifies colleges into three categories. The first includes colleges that are allowed to start the school year in mid-October, and the second includes the colleges that need to postpone the school year for at least a week, until completing the precautionary measures to prevent Covid-19. The third category includes the colleges that are not yet allowed to reopen for being unable to provide preventive measures.
The forms the colleges use to evaluate their pandemic preparedness require detailed information on their ability to apply social distancing in classrooms and make sure classrooms have appropriate ventilation, the availability of supplies like hand sterilizers, disinfectants and thermometers, and the adoption of daily disinfection plans for spaces used by students, staff and faculty members, as well as requirements for wearing masks and the possibility of providing them free on campus.
“The assessment system aims to know colleges’ readiness at universities to start studies.”Ahmed El-Badri Atia
An assistant professor at the Faculty of Medical Technology at the University of Tripoli
The new system also requires colleges to provide information on how students will be distributed inside lecture halls and the possibility of dividing them into groups. It also stipulates that colleges should have an alternative plan for online education in the event of a new Covid-19 outbreak.
“The assessment system aims to know colleges’ readiness at universities to start studies,” said Ahmed El-Badri Atia, an assistant professor at the Faculty of Medical Technology at the University of Tripoli. “Some of them were allowed to start the school year after ensuring their readiness to receive and deal with students in line with the precautionary conditions.”
Atia believes it is necessary to monitor the new system, to ensure it reflects the real situation on the ground, and the ability of universities to protect their students and professors against Covid-19.
Students Support the Decision
Given the poor capabilities for online education at Libyan universities, a large number of students support the new system as a way of allowing them to return to in-class instruction. (See a related article, “Covid-19’s Second Wave Leaves Plans for Resuming On-Campus Studies in Doubt.”)
“The decision to start the school year is in the interest of students as nobody knows when the Covid-19 pandemic will end.”Bushra Salah
A third-year engineering student at Benghazi’s Mediterranean International University.
“The decision to start the school year is in the interest of students as nobody knows when the Covid-19 pandemic will end,” said Bushra Salah, a third-year engineering student at Benghazi’s Mediterranean International University.
“We did not get much benefit last year from distance learning, whether in terms of teachers’ ability to deliver information or students’ ability to understand and comprehend,” she added.
According to Salah, universities have mandated vaccination as a condition for students to resume on-campus studies. “After getting the vaccine, there will be no problem,” she said. “With increased awareness and education for students, there will be no fear. We will learn how to coexist with the virus.”
Nesma Al-Borki, a second-year medical student at the Arab Medical University in Benghazi, is also in favor of in-person education. “According to the university’s latest decision, studying will be face-to-face,” she said. “This is the best, as students will be divided into groups along with mandating vaccination.”
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Al-Borki noted that her university faced problems last year with online education. “We were not able to download the lectures due to poor Internet connections,” she said. “Students faced obstacles due to the constant Internet outages and the lack of a fast connection.”