An agreement to create a bi-weekly English language educational radio show was signed between Abdulkader al-Tuhami, the general manager of the Libyan National Broadcasting Corporation, and Cherry Gough, the Director of the British Council in Libya on May 17th in Tripoli.
The agreement followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Higher Education and the British Council on partnership programs.
The project, to be known as Learn English Radio (LER) has been welcomed by many Libyans.
According to the Libya Herald, during the later years of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, especially between 1985 and 1995 English language training was dropped from the national curriculum. The Libyan government purposefully worked to prevent Libyans from learning English although Gaddafi spoke some English himself.
According to several Libyans who spoke to Tunisia Live, for years, Gaddafi used illiteracy and the deprivation of adequate education as a tool to prop up his dictatorship and repress dissent.
“One of the tactics in Gaddafi’s playbook was to force us to sink into the abyss of ignorance. English is an international language, use of the English language could have been a tool for us to tell the world about Gaddafi’s repression, this is what he most feared,” Hafedh Ftiss a director of the Amazigh International Council told Tunisia Live.
In many official speeches, Gaddafi would declare that the main adversaries of Libya were English speaking nations. He used this political pretext to drop the learning of English in Libyan educational institutions.
Al Moghani Hassan Mohamed wrote about Gaddafi’s hostile attitude towards the English language in his Durham University doctoral dissertation entitled “Students’ Perceptions of Motivation in English Language Learning in Libya.” According to Mohamed, in one speech, Gaddafi allegedly said, “We are a natural and historical opposite of America as an imperialist power…one of America’s tasks, as an imperialist power hostile to freedom is to threaten the Jamahirya.”
In reality though the lack of English language training was a big masquerade that Gadaffi put on to fool the Libyan people according to Ftiss, “Gadaffi had good relationships with many English speaking countries including the ones he called his rivals. His war on the English language was a method to keep Libya isolated from the outside world, which was a policy only good for Gadaffi and no other Libyan,” argued Ftiss.
Ftiss said that Libyan history was another subject highly obscured by the former regime that the new government would have to work to revive. “We need to learn about the collective memory that unites us all. We need to know about the history of North Africa and Libya. History was totally ignored in Libyan education before the revolution.”
Facebook comments by Libyans appear to be mostly positive towards the new English language initiative on the Britih Council facebook page.
“Great news…when will the programs start? I want to tell my friends.” wrote Adel Gosaibat, a Facebook user.
Although the launch date of the English learning radio show has not yet been confirmed, Libyans can look forward to the day when they can learn English from listening to the radio.