I've driven around the Jebel Nafousa and I accept that it wouldn't be easy under normal circumstances for a company to open language schools up there, and it is just a bit too much of a trek from, say, Gharian to Tripoli to take English lessons. What is sickening, however, is that HMG and the FCO start from the position that the only game in town is the British Council, and that this grant of 100,000 Libyan Dinars - about £50,000 these days - is clearly being used to create additional channels for the British Council. For their brand, their courses, their government standing, their business. You might argue that since the British Council has a record of kowtowing to the Gaddafi regime and using taxpayers' money to pay for Gaddafi cronies, this is better. But what nobody seems to have cracked is that the British Council denies, through its teeth, that its own businesses derive benefit from taxpayers' money, when it is plain that the FCO, on behalf of government, are committed to exactly that.
There is no commitment to a free market here, no benefit for the many British companies - publishers and schools - who offer online tuition. The support is expressly and exclusively given to the British Council.
“The LD 20,000 given to each of the schools has been used to buy equipment and computers” he [the British ambassador] explained, “ The local councils have given the buildings. This allows for the English language schools to charge low fees for their classes. Using the software and computers, pupils will be able to follow British Council courses, though they will still have to go to Tripoli if they wish to sit a formal exam”.
It sounds like a narrowly conceived and flimsy project that could easily flop. Let's hope that for the sake of the people in Jebel Nafousa it doesn't. Let's also hope that next time a UK ambassador doles out our money, he or she will overcome their institutional myopia and act in the interests of Britain rather than in the unrelated and self-serving interests of the British Council.