Life must go on for Libyans despite war on their doorstep

Libyan children pose for a picture in front of Tripoli's Corinthia hotel after a swim near the city's main port on April 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2019

Life must go on for Libyans despite war on their doorstep

  • “Life has to go on. It will end when it ends,” said Samira, who runs a salon in Tripoli

TRIPOLI: Despite the war on Tripoli’s doorstep, residents are filling the salons and cafes in some quarters of the Libyan capital as they carry on as best they can.

“Life has to go on. It will end when it ends,” said Samira, who runs a hair and beauty salon in Tripoli’s central Ben Achour neighborhood.

Originally from neighboring Tunisia, Samira has been living in Libya for years and her salon is always packed with clients.

“At least three or four brides come in each week to have their hair done and get ready for their big day,” she said, as she prepared a palette of eyeshadows and brushes to start making up a young bride.

“That’s as well as dozens of women who come for a haircut, to get a makeover, or skincare before a big event,” she added.

Clashes between warring sides have centered on the southern outskirts of the city, just 15 km from the center.

Fighting intensified with a counter-attack launched by GNA force on Saturday, when sustained rocket and shellfire could be heard in several districts and some witnesses reported airstrikes.

Tripoli residents fear that the battle could escalate into a wider conflict that would devastate the North African country, already rocked by years of instability and economic hardship since former ruler Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in 2011.

But for now, the honking of car horns on the seafront is louder than the distant boom of rockets and gunfire.

Schools and businesses in Tripoli remain open when they can, while residents of the Mediterranean city try to indulge in their favorite leisure activities.

“Libya is not just about television footage showing tanks and militiamen brandishing their guns or destroyed buildings,” said schoolteacher Mariam Abdallah.

“We are still having weddings, parties, school activities and sports events.” On the seafront in the west of Tripoli, outdoor cafes are packed, especially toward the end of the day when residents like to unwind after a day’s work.

Many of the clients are students and young employees attracted by the offers of free wifi.

Issam, a waiter at a cafe, said coffee shops and restaurants provide a “rare” form of leisure in Libya, a country that has “no cinemas, theaters or concert halls.”

So the “best places to meet (friends) and spend some good times are cafes and restaurants,” he said.

“My daughter, her husband and their children came to shelter in our house because of the fighting, so the family has grown,” said Faiza, as she shopped for some crockery and other supplies.

“It is always nice to have something new in the kitchen,” she said cheerfully as she checked out some bowls with a flowery motif.

Faiza said she needed to prepare ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in early May.

“New things inspire me to create new dishes for the family,” she added, her grandchildren running up and down the aisles of the supermarket.

“It’s hard to come up with different meals to break the (Ramadan) fast every evening for a month,” she said.


Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

Updated 23 August 2019

Cairo turns to Tokyo for a lesson on education

  • The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide

CAIRO: Egypt is seeking Japan’s help to improve its education system, which has fallen to 130th place in international rankings.

The Japanese education system is recognized as one of the top five worldwide, and Cairo is hoping to apply key aspects of Japan’s approach to the Egyptian curriculum.

Education has played a major role in transforming Japan from a feudal state receiving aid following World War II to a modern economic powerhouse. 

During a visit to Japan in 2016, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed political and economic development with Japanese officials, and was also briefed on the Japanese education system.

The Egyptian leader visited Japanese schools and called on Japan to help Egypt introduce a similar system in its schools.  

As part of Egyptian-Japanese cooperation, Japan’s embassy established cultural cooperation as well as technical and professional education links between the two countries. Collaboration has been strengthened from kindergarten to post-university, with Japanese experts contributing in various education fields.

Japanese experts have held seminars in schools across the country, focusing on basic education. 

During one seminar, Japan highlighted the importance of enhancing education by playing games during kindergarten and primary school, encouraging children’s ability and desire to explore.  

Education expert Ola El-Hazeq told Arab News that the Japanese system focuses on developing students’ sense of collective worth and responsibility toward society. This starts with their surrounding environment by taking care of school buildings, educational equipment and school furniture, for example.

“Japanese schools are known for being clean,” El-Hazeq said. “The first thing that surprises a school visitor is finding sneakers placed neatly in a locker or on wooden shelves at the school entrance. Each sneaker has its owner’s name on it. This is a habit picked up at most primary and intermediate schools as well as in many high schools.”

Japanese students also clean their classrooms, collect leaves that have fallen in the playground and take out the garbage. In many cases, teachers join students to clean up schools and also public gardens and beaches during the summer holidays.

El-Hazeq added that neither the teachers nor the students find it beneath their dignity to carry out such chores.

The academic year in Japan continues for almost 11 months, different from most other countries, with the Japanese academic year starting on April 1 and ending on March 31 the following year.

Japan’s school days and hours are relatively longer in comparison with other countries. Usually the school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teachers normally work until 5 p.m. but sometimes up to 7 p.m. Holidays are shorter than in other countries. Spring and winter holidays are no longer than 10 days, and the summer holiday ranges from 40 to 45 days.