Ms Zahra Al Tabal is showing a student how to lead an orchestra at Al Ribat School in Tripoli. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi

“I cannot describe with words what ‘music’ means to me. I am going to explain it to you with sound,” said Ms Zahra Al-Tabal, teacher at Al Ribat School in Tripoli, while she takes the accordion and starts playing a bright and addictive melody with it.

Founded in 1969, Al Ribat Primary School is located in Tripoli Center. Designated to host 600 students, it did not receive any maintenance for years.

Ms Zahra Al-Tabal has been teaching music there for 34 years. During this time, neither the conflict nor the neglected maintenance of the building made her lose the motivation to pass on her skills to children.

She graduated from Jamila Alazmrly Institute of Music and Art in 1985. Her love for music and education brought her to Al Ribat School, where she has remained for years.

“I did not have the opportunity to study in a high school. I learned in a vocational training center. One of the subjects was ‘music and education’. At first, I was not that interested on music, but when I started the classes I loved it,” explained Ms Al-Tabal. “I finally graduated from Alazmrly Institute. I started my career by chance, but I loved to teach so I kept with it.”

Since 2011, the repeated conflicts in Libya resulted into hundreds of thousands of people displaced, which brought new students to Al Ribat School. The classes became crowded and the space for teaching music unavailable. 

Tripoli Center is a municipality facing challenges to accommodate the increasing population density. More than 160,000 citizens live there now, which makes it difficult for local authorities to ensure a proper learning environment at the 65 basic and secondary education facilities.

“We, the local authorities, have limited capacity to maintain the educational facilities, especially because of the instability in the country and the rising costs,” Mr Sara El-Noumi, Under Secretary of Tripoli Center Municipality, explained.

Despite the challenges, Ms Al-Tabal kept doing her job, teaching music in any corner of the school that was available.

"I had no place for training," she said. "Sometimes I taught students in a bookstore, other times in the corridors. Nothing prevented me and the students from practicing. Their passion helped them win first prize in competitions throughout the district,” declared Ms Al-Tabal proudly.

The façade of the newly completed rooms before and after. Photo: ©UNDP Libya/Malek Elmaghrebi

A collective effort from the heart for the art

The school management team decided to expand by building a new set of rooms in the upper floor. They got support from the community, which contributed financially to the construction. Unfortunately, their efforts were not enough, and the rehabilitation remained incomplete.

“Parents, teachers and the entire community made the effort to improve learning conditions of our children,” said Mohamed Wahiba, Principal of the School. “We were trying not only to provide educational lessons, but also to improve the student’s motivation, self-confidence and willingness to study.”

Zahra looks on while a student is learning how to play accordion at Al Ribat school in Tripoli. Photo: ©UNDP Libya/Malek Elmaghrebi

The love for music moves mountains

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) completed the construction of two classrooms, a science lab, and a space for extra-curricular activities at Rabat School.

The 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. The work undertaken at Rabat School, was supported by the local authorities and the educational institutions representatives of Tripoli Center Municipality.

"During all those years, my great wish was to train my students in a proper music classroom at the school," said the teacher Zahra.

Students learn how to play guitar and accordion at Al Ribat School in Tripoli. Photo: ©UNDP Libya/Malek Elmaghrebi

"I cannot describe how happy I am to finally have this space. Everything changed for good. Now I can give full training sessions which can last up to three hours, not 20 minutes like before,” she said.

"I was very annoyed by the places where we were learning music, especially by the dust in the bookstore. Now my love and my desire to learn music has increased because of the new place," said Mohammed Al-Walid, a grade-three student.


Students learn how to play accordion at Al Ribat School in Tripoli. Photo: ©UNDP Libya/Malek Elmaghrebi

"We are very grateful for this support, which will certainly help the students’ learning process. The science lab will definitely improve education in the school,” said Mohammed, teacher at Al Ribat school.

“The construction work, painting, electricity, water access and installation of new windows and doors was all perfectly done on time,” he said. “I thank all who helped make this possible, especially the Stabilization Facility for Libya.”

“All the SFL’s school projects in Tripoli Center were completed on time, meeting high international standards. They have contributed to improve the learning environment for our students, concluded the Under-Secretary of Tripoli Center Municipality, Mr Sara El-Noumi.


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