TRIPOLI — Libya's 1.2 million schoolchildren returned to classrooms nationwide on Saturday, to learn a revamped curriculum that includes the revolution that ousted Moamer Kadhafi and purges his personal teachings.
The country's old textbooks have been revised to eliminate chapters that "glorified" Kadhafi with new material added on the nine-month conflict that led to his downfall and death, Education Minister Suleyman Ali al-Saheli told AFP.
"We will not repeat the same mistakes. Our children will study the entire conflict, including details of Kadhafi's death," Saheli said on the sidelines of an event marking the start of the national school year.
"For sure they will study what happened in Libya last year."
The bloody rebellion which erupted last February saw tens of thousands of Libyan men, backed by NATO forces, take up arms against Kadhafi, who was killed on October 20 following a conflict that left thousands of people dead.
Saheli said that during his four-decade regime, Kadhafi "distorted history" to cast himself in a favourable light.
"Libyan history was changed under him. Libya's genuine history was never taught," he told a gathering in the Ali Shams school in Tripoli's once-notorious Abu Salim neighbourhood.
Abu Salim was a former Kadhafi bastion that included an infamous prison where some political activists who opposed Kadhafi were held.
Large swathes of the neighbourhood were reduced to rubble when Kadhafi diehards battled former rebels in August, in the days before Tripoli fell.
"Kadhafi's political teachings, military teachings and the subject of Al-Jamahiriya are being dropped from the new curriculum," Saheli told the gathering of children, teachers and officials from the United Nations children's fund, UNICEF.
Kadhafi-era schools were forced to teach from his "Green Book" which contained the slain dictator's views on politics, the military and economics, and Saheli said Libya faced several "difficulties" in reforming a system previously dominated by Kadhafi's teachings.
"One of the activities of teachers in the past was to glorify the tyrant. Now we will make teachers aware of the educational activities and focus on the growth of children," the minister said.
"Schools have been damaged and there is lack of funding. All this has led to delays in getting books to children on time," he said.
Schools in several Libyan towns and cities -- including in Benghazi where the uprising first erupted and in Kadhafi's hometown Sirte -- were severely damaged during the conflict.
The new government's education authorities said the academic year that started on Saturday was organised to make up for classes lost to the conflict.
"This special academic year will run up to June," Deputy Education Minister Suleyman al-Khoja told AFP.
"And then from September 15 we will have the full new academic year up to June 2013."
UNICEF said in a statement that more than "1.2 million children" were returning to class from Saturday, 10 months after schools were forced to close because of the fighting.
Some schools reopened during in the conflict, notably in Benghazi, a stronghold of anti-Kadhafi forces, but Saturday marked the official restart of classes nationwide.
UNICEF said that a total of 27 million textbooks are being printed, 10 million of which are already being distributed by the education ministry.
However challenges remain, such as "the plight of the displaced (students), a shortage of desks and books and transport for children to and from schools," UNICEF added.
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