Abdul Rahman Ali, an assistant lecturer in medical technology at Misurata University, in northwestern Libya, drives a taxi to meet his family’s needs. He did not receive his university salary for three years, he said, which forced him to stop his academic career.
“My salary is not enough and I do not have health insurance,” said Ali, who has a wife and five children to support. “A professor’s career no longer has a place in the Libyan society. An additional job is needed to improve one’s income. … I have friends working in shops and translation offices.”
Ali is one of nearly 10,000 professors who have been on strike at 14 public universities for four weeks now, delaying the start of the new academic year, which was scheduled to begin in mid-September. The protest is believed to be the largest ever seen in the country’s universities.
Hussein al-Allam, a professor of economics at Bani Walid University who is serving as a spokesman for the professors and the higher education ministry staff members who are on strike, said Ali’s predicament was not unusual.
“Poor salaries and higher prices force professors to pursue other jobs… just to meet their financial needs,” he said.
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According to al-Allam, there are 190 faculty members at Misurata University’s Medical Technology Institute who, like Ali, were appointed in 2016 and have not yet been paid. And they’re not the only professors who have had to find other work in order to make ends meet.
“University disciplines like petroleum engineering, medical specializations and information technology were abandoned by their professors as a result of not getting decent wages,” al-Allam said. Most of them have not been paid since they were appointed.
Low Wages and a Weakened Economy
Professors’ salaries in Libya have not increased since the outbreak of the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, while inflation has exceeded 20 percent in recent years, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The monthly wage rates for professors at public universities in Libya range from 950 dinars ($237 at unofficial exchange rates available on the street) for an assistant lecturer to 2,100 dinars ($525) for an associate professor. The average expenditure of a Libyan family of five is about 1,600 dinars per month ($400).
“A professor’s salary is not enough to cover his or her needs till the middle of the month,” said Nawal el-Amrani, a professor at the Faculty of Engineering Technology at Zawiya University’s branch in Zuwara. “The situation is very difficult and unfit at the human and academic level.” She added that universities also suffer from poor budgets, which causes severe shortages of equipment and laboratory materials and negatively affects the quality of education and the work of research professors. (See a related article, “The Economic Struggle of Public-University Professors.”)