The oxymoron that is Libyan Education

Recently I received the news that I have successfully completed my sixth semester at Tripoli University’s department of Linguistics, which should be fantastic, I should probably be ecstatic as this puts me a year away from graduation. Except I am not!

Such news ought  be accompanied with a small sense of achievement, some sort of development, perhaps even a slightly bigger head what with all the learning I   have been doing, However in this case no achievement is noticed, no development took place, and my head is still relatively the same size.  What accompanies the news for me instead is this feeling of wasted time, like I have lost 3 years towards something that is yet to benefit me in any way. Now this is not one of the situations where I am just seeing the glass half empty and should instead direct my eyes to the half which is full, because right now  in Libya the present is what matters most as most people try to take their lives day by day avoiding the creeping sense of doom that comes from thinking past the time limit of 3 months into the future.

I have learnt a long time that Naser (What Tripoli University’s B franchise is nicknamed) is a tad worse than the original one, beyond the fact that it used to be military camp; something clearly seen in the aesthetics of the place, it is also a place that has been seen as the rejects hub. The college where all those rejected from medicine, engineering, and architecture went, or simply the place for those who are simply in it for the shiny bachelors at the end.

Knowing all this, I still went in with some expectation, as long as there were professors willing to teach and materials to be read,  I didn’t see why I couldn’t make the best out of it.  First four semesters were torture, curriculum was weak, uninteresting, and I ended up spending way too many hours roaming the university due to absent professors and  ones not even bothered enough to give lectures, which is why I was working part time before my second semester started.

Then fifth semester started, I was working full time at that point and simply picked up materials and attended exams. Reading was not difficult, tests were simple and straightforward most of the time, and I avoided contradicting professors at all costs. Yet by the end I found out I was failed at a subject, TRANSLATION. It is quite ironic that I would fail this subject as I have been  partially working as a translator at the time and have yet to receive a complaint from anyone including various embassies and companies I had translated for. When I confronted the professor, he informed me that the reason he failed me was due to my absence. What about my exam results? I asked, well it turns out he couldn’t be bothered to read my answers because I did not attend and therefore LOGICALLY could not possibly answer the exams. Ahh, common sense, how can I argue with that. After plenty of arguments, he offered to let me pass with 56 points so long as I filled out a form, but I had been keeping my percentage up hoping to have a decent over all grade and quite frankly, the offer seemed so sleazy and underhanded that I chose to retake the subject and show him.

Here was my dilemma; now if teachers are failing me not because of my grades but because of my attendance, how could I keep up my full time work and still pass with a decent percentage.  I couldn’t due to some regulations passed by the university that anyone with an absence of over 30% cannot sit the exams and therefore would fail by default. And that is how I lost my one sense of achievement, the one thing which offered some sense of accomplishment in my life replaced by 20 hours a week of mainly useless lectures plus commuting and hours spent memorizing the material as the majority of professors simply didn’t accept paraphrasing of their materials in exams.

This is all made much worse by the temporary excitement I had when I signed up for a Literature class last semester, being such a book worm, I didn’t see how this can go bad. It turns out the class contained Two hours of simply reading a ridiculously simplified version of Shakespeare’s  The Merchant of Venice, the sheets we read from were so badly typed that there was an average of 20 grammar/Spelling mistakes in each. Now I ask you this, what would possess someone who is apparently a ” Linguistics Professor” to throw away the highly praised play in iambic pentameter and give us not even the sparksnote version, but what appears to be a version rewritten by a 5 year old child!? This sense of disappointment was only heightened by the fact that no discussion was allowed in the lecture, and that the professor seems allergic to any student input. When examinations rolled around, our professor released a bunch of sheets with the questions and answers that would be in both the midterm and final exam. Which to some may sound like heaven, but to me sounds like our dear professor wanted to keep the number of passing students high enough in order to maintain his post and wasn’t entirely sure his teaching would accomplish it.

This is one example of many others, and I am sure less people would be frustrated if specimens such as those were replaced or perhaps even given a talking to by the administration. But for now, every student’s will and enthusiasm towards learning has been curbed by our academic institution, and when paired with the inability to do anything on the side and still maintain a decent percentage, we spend 4 years simple pushing through dull, un-motivating classes designed by professors who are simply looking forward to their monthly cheque.

Though, do not let my overall negative tone fool you, there are RARE figures currently at the university who work hard towards instilling any sense of passion in students, I had the pleasure of having such a professor in my fifth semester,  but the  overall majority still disappoints. What I am trying to point at here though, is that it is not difficult to get the proper error-free material,  it is not difficult to hold an open discussion in class, and neither is it impossible to allow them some input here and there, it may even render all those prepared questions and answer sheets for exams useless, because now we have a class which understands the curriculum.

I am not sure if I have ever mentioned this or not in this blog, but I am a radio host for Radio Alsaa 90.7 and my topic in the coming weeks will be this, and if any of you have anything to say or would like to share your personal experience with our oh so functional education system, do contact me or simply write it out and send it on Sara.Bilghasim@Gmail.com so we can share it on air.

And you can follow all updates about radio, Life and what not on Twitter @ Sara Bilghasim

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