MAY 18, 1955
NEW YORK—There is an interesting story of how technical assistance has come to the aid, through a UNESCO project, of certain areas in the Middle East. But the Middle East covers a vast area and so today I would like to tell you just a few things that have happened in Libya.
For some time Libya consisted of three trust territories under the U.N.'s watchful eye and in 1952 Libyan independence was granted. The U.N. had a sense of responsibility for this nation born under its auspices, so with its agencies it maintained a force of 80 specialists in Libya of almost every nationality. In addition, the U.N. has granted fellowships to study abroad to 70 young Libyans in subjects mainly connected with public administration, though medicine and pharmacology were also included.
Libya has a population of 1,250,000 people and three-quarters of its land is a sterile desert. The country, therefore, is in urgent need of technical aid, for the per capita income is only about $34 a year.
Libya's birthrate is high, but so is its infant mortality rate. Out of every 1,000 children 300 die within a year of birth.
The illiteracy rate in the country among men is 85 percent and among women 99 percent. Therefore, the Libyan authorities have accorded a high priority to the development of education. But you cannot develop education without training teachers, and then you must have schoolrooms and supplies for those schoolrooms. Young men now are being trained as teachers. An Indian educator heads the training center established by Libya's Higher Education Council. He is also the head of UNESCO's mission in the country.
More astonishing perhaps even than the development of a center for men teachers is the fact that there is also a center for the development of women teachers and that women are clamoring to come and be trained. So, for the first time in the history of the country there are 28 well-prepared, competent schoolmistresses in Libya, trained in practical methods of primary education on Libyan soil.
Libya is gradually setting up a comprehensive educational system, and this includes not only academic work but also the knowledge of how to create better conditions of living. There are newly dug wells in villages, the fundamentals of hygiene are gradually being taught, and women are being emancipated slowly but surely.
At the same time, of course, in this country the U.N. has been helping them through UNESCO to train government employees to run their new government. So everyone hopes there will be a better life, for many people, one that is more worth living because of this technical assistance from UNESCO.
(Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)