Libya: “We want to forget about the past”
“We want to play,” one 11-year-old girl told me when I visited a centre run by Save the Children in Tripoli. “We want to forget about the past.”
“We want to do some activities,” she said. “We want a school surrounded with flowers. We want to study and play.”
One of the key ways we help children in emergencies is providing safe areas where they can experience normality in a caring, secure environment.
They may not be surrounded by flowers, as the girl suggested, but they are inclusive, healthy and protective places to study and play.
We’ve created safe spaces under trees, in school classrooms or any other space that is available.
A place to play
So, when I was invited to visit our first child-friendly space in the Libyan capital Tripoli – in a site for people displaced by the conflict – I was curious about what to expect in such an urban environment.
During the ride there, I was informed that the site hosts well over 1,000 families, at times almost 2,000, but the number fluctuates daily as families are transitory.
The space I arrived at was an abandoned one-room building transformed into a large recreational room.
There were some tables, chairs and lovely decor such as newsprint paper chains hanging from the ceiling. Primary-school-aged children were jump-roping and playing what appeared to be a version of duck–duck–goose and musical chairs.
What they need
In any conflict, children are vulnerable and subject to enormous psychological stress. Some will have seen family members killed or injured and their homes and communities destroyed or damaged.
A good-quality educational environment is often the best protection and support communities can provide for their children.
School’s out – since February
For the children happily engaged in the games and fun, facilitated by 20 community volunteers trained by Save the Children, I was told that most have been out of school since mid-February.
School closures in Libya are estimated to have directly impacted the education of over 1.5 million children and for many the entire second half of the school year has been lost.
The Ministry of Education is providing catch-up classes and extracurricular lessons for the children accessing the public schools.
We’re working towards ensuring access to schools. We’re advocating for access to formal schooling for all children.
But for the time being, for children like those I met who don’t have access to school, we’re providing a positive response with our child friendly spaces.