Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mixed Feelings On Opening Schools In Egypt

Students at the Egyptian American International School in New Cairo, Helwan District, from left to right, Sarah Sabra, Zeina Abou-Zeid, Farida Khafaga, Dina Sherif and Lama Tawakkol. (Photo provided.)

By Lama Tawakkol
Reporter
CAIRO, Egypt – With so many escaped prisoners and thugs on the loose, some wonder if it’s safe for schools to reopen yet in post-Revolution Egypt.
Though the Egyptian American International School in New Cairo, Helwan District is already back to work, following its normal curriculum, teachers and parents are ambivalent about the move.
Raghda Kasim, an English Literature teacher for grade 12, said schools had to start again to “strike when the iron is hot” and let students enforce the values of the revolution and understand what it means to be an Egyptian citizen following the January 25 revolution.
But Rehab El Shehabi, who is both a mother and a teacher, said she is still very anxious about the well-being of the children despite the remarkable opportunity to instill recent events into the daily lives of students.
She said she needed to know the ministry of interior was working harder to provide safety measures for returning students.
Shehabi also said it is unfair to have some people at school and others not at school because it could end up giving an unequal advantage to some people in the final exams.
Sherene Rahman said that the revolution was not the romantic vision of waving flags.
It was the beginning of real, sudden change that had to be dealt with, she said.
Before building castles in the sky, she said, you have to put down a foundation. Education is that foundation, she said.
Ahmed El Attar, a grade 12 physics teacher, said it would be better for everyone to be at home until the country was functioning safely and properly.
He added that this didn’t mean repeatedly postponing the second semester, but rather wrapping up the year.
Attar said the nation is facing an emergency and it needs to be dealt with as one.
The head of the English Department at the school, Howayda El Enany, said she is worried about her kids but that it would be nonsense to wait for the security people claim they want.
If events don’t stabilize soon, she said, schools could very well be off for months.
She added that most students were out having fun anyway, so why not come to school instead.
English teacher Dean Cecil Bahr said safety is crucial and might not be very steady at the moment.
But delaying education could be even more “ruinous” than that, he said.
Bahr said that education had to get underway because “when an old tree falls in the forest, the responsibility lies with the new trees to provide structure, progress, and a stable future.”
Grade Disciplinary Supervisor for grades seven through 10, Dalia Khalil, said she hoped the changes in Egypt would positively affect the students, adding that the events would inevitably have a great impact on both their internal and external attitudes.
As the nation’s events progress, however, it is unclear what will come next.
“Revolution is deep and rapid change; education is gradual and slow, and both are parallel,” said Hind Fatfat, a sociology teacher.
The question that is repeated over and over across Egypt at the moment, though, is whether or not education and revolution will be able to continue in parallel.
In recent days, there have been reports about thugs stopping schools buses and demanding money, while others have attempted to break into schools.
So far, though, the problems have been minor and the army has intervened to help.
Even so, many parents are growing more nervous and some are considering not sending their kids to school.
Some schools that planned to open today have put it off for another week.
Whatever schools choose to do, questions and doubts will remain.
But everyone in Egypt is wishing for safety to return to the streets.

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