Faraj Awad al Fazzani explains to his classmates the human digestive system at Shohada Tagrafet school in Sirt. Photo: ©UNDP Libya/ Abdeladeem Ajaj

''I have been surrounded by doctors since I was little because I suffer from rheumatism. I would love to become a doctor to help other people with my same condition,'' said Faraj Awad Al-Fazzani, an eleven -year-old grade six student at Shohada Tagrafet primary school in Sirt.

Following violent clashes in the city in 2016, Faraj and his family fled to Misrata where they spent two years. Living in displacement was very hard for them. ''My family was not able to pay private healthcare, so it was very difficult to get a regular treatment and follow my studies,'' he explained.

The journey back to normal

When the security situation allowed, the family returned home in Sirt. ''The windows and doors were broken. The floor was full of glass and plaster fragments, the walls were riddled with bullet holes, the furniture was totally ruined,'' said Faraj.They carried out light renovation in their house, but Shohada Tagrafet school was a different story.

''I could not believe it. The building was totally destroyed. It was just a mound of rubble,'' lamented Faraj.There was an urgent need for Sirt Municipality to provide education to returnees. After a diligent clean up, the educational facility resumed classes, despite the lack of windows and doors, and the holes on the walls.

 ''The situation was very bad in winter. Many students left to enroll in other schools, '' said Ms. Benina Al Ghazali, Director of the School. ''It was very cold. We were basically studying outside in an open deck. I missed several classes because I couldn’t cope with the temperature.  The days that I went to the school my rheumatism got worse. It was extremely painful in my feet, '' explained the student Faraj.

One of the damaged classrooms before and after renovation. Photo: ©UNDP Libya/ Abdeladeem Ajaj

''There were initiatives from local volunteers and some organizations to renovate parts of the educational facility, but the building needed a huge rehabilitation and there was not budget for it,'' declared Ms. Al Ghazali.

''We thought about distributing the students in other four schools in the city, but we abandoned the idea because that would have resulted into overcrowded classes, and parents facing the cost of transport fees for their children since other schools are too far away, '' she explained.

One side of the damaged building before and after renovation. Photo: ©UNDP Libya/ Abdeladeem Ajaj

"Teaching lessons was a real challenge. All the art labs were unusable. Students could only perform a few activities. They were very emotionally affected," said Ms Najia Aknouna, drawing teacher at Shohada Tagrafet school.

When renovation means everything

Led by national and municipal Libyan institutions and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with international support, the Stabilization Facility for Libya (SFL) is an immediate stabilization initiative which provides quick rehabilitation of critical infrastructure and delivery of equipment to support local authorities to improve services to their citizens.

Shohada Tagrafet School in Sirt has 21 classrooms. The SFL renovated the entire building from inside and outside. Now 500 students and 82 staff are reaping the benefits of this effort."It is really a great initiative. We were in dire need of this maintenance, " stated Ms Warda Abdul Karim, activities instructor at Shohada Tagrafet school.

The SFL has undertaken several projects in Sirt, including delivery of ambulances to Ibn Sina hospital, delivery of five garbage trucks and 200 garbage bins, and the renovation of Aqba Ibn Nafi , Al Ittihad , Khawla Bint Azur, Sana Ibn Youssef and Al Fath schools.

A group of students are singing during a handover ceremony at Shohada Tagrafet school in Sirt. ©UNDP Libya/ Abdeladeem Ajaj

The sky is the limit

The full rehabilitation of Shohada Tagrafet School is enabling students not only to learn more and better, but also to join extracurricular activities.

"After the reform, the school has started to host art exhibitions. We have a large theater that has been renovated as well and helps us in those extracurricular activities. The situation differs much from what it was in the past", said the drawing teacher, Ms Aknouna.

"Now there are walls with new painting in every space in the School. The students are motivated, they are performing better and are getting better grades, " said the activities instructor, Ms Karim.

"The school looks beautiful. I am so happy and proud to study here. I am thrilled to keep learning and pursue my dream of becoming a doctor, " said Faraj.  "I like playing football and I am very happy as well to play with my friends at the renovated football ground. I feel now the sky is the limit, I can become a doctor and a football player", he concluded.

Faraj (holding a ball) and his football teammates prepare themselves for a training session. ©UNDP Libya/ Abdeladeem Ajaj
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