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Egyptian Revolution - Secondary School Resources

Learn about the Egyptian revolution from the point of view of young people at a secondary school in Cairo

Pupils at school in Cairo tell their stories about the revolution. Includes archive footage of the demonstrations and some images of violence. Duration 8,17

In January 2011, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets because they were unhappy with the way their country was being run.

They wanted to get rid of the President, Hosni Mubarak.

Women demonstrate in Cairo

For 30 years, he ruled Egypt with an iron fist. Under Mubarak's regime, poverty, unemployment and corruption were rife.

They also felt that they didn't have a say in how the country was run and that they weren't free to say what they wanted. People who criticized the government or Mr Mubarak were often punished by the government security forces.

During the 18 days of protests, hundreds died, and many more were injured. Most of the protestors were young Egyptians and some of them were school children.

Tahrir Square

Protesters demonstrate in Tahrir Square, Cairo.

The centre of the demonstrations in Cairo, Egypt's capital, was Tahrir Square, a major road junction near the Nile river.

Thousands of people gathered there during the protests and many stayed overnight in tents. Mr Mubarak's supporters tried to stop people protesting by using water cannon, tear gas and they even rode horses and camels into the square. There was fighting between protestors and Mubarak supporters and protestors set fire to government buildings.

At a secondary school in Cairo in March 2011, everyone was back at school. The school was on holiday at the start of the demonstrations and the school closed for a week afterwards. When children returned to classes, everyone was talking about the revolution.

Lots of young people and students took part in the protests.

Violent scenes

A man on a camel surrounded by demonstrators in a chaotic scene

Aya is aged 14 and protested against Mubarak's regime in Tahrir Square with her family for 18 days. She saw lots of violence in the square and remembers her brother being hit by flying glass when a windscreen was smashed and her cousin being hit by rubber bullets.

I was so worried about my father... they were talking about people being injured and killed
Salma, age 14

Sohaib is 14 and after he finished his school exams he marched 20 kilometres from his home to the protests in the centre of Cairo on Friday 28th January, known as the Friday of Wrath.

Sohaib protested in the square until Mubarak left. "A tear gas bomb fell next to my leg," he remembered, "and when the gas got in my eyes it made me cry and I fell to the ground."

There were lots of injuries and violence during the protests.

Salma is 14 and went to the demonstrations with her family. Her father is a doctor: "During the protests he went to the field hospital and treated the injured eyes of the protestors. Then with the help of others, he managed to turn a small mosque close to the square into a field hospital, and they treated lots of injured people.

"I was so worried about my father. There was a media blackout….the internet was down, I couldn't get hold of him on his mobile. All we could do was sit and watch the TV, and they were talking about violent scenes and people being injured and killed, so I was really worried about him."

Protestors unite

Egyptian pupils talk to BBC team
Aya and Salma

The violence was distressing but it is the unity of the protestors and the friendly atmosphere inside the square that the students remember most.

Aya has happy memories but also recalls some practical difficulties during the protests like eating and sleeping: "I wore the same dress for 3 days without changing. There were many challenges, but we were like one family. All the protestors were like one, big family.

One day, my mum was bursting for the toilet…., but there were long queues for the loo in the square. So we knocked on the door of a house….and someone opened it. And we saw a Christian cross on the wall. The man welcomed us even though we are Muslims and said 'no problem at all.' Mum went to the toilet, and then we washed and prayed in his house."

Mubarak steps down

Egyptian pupil talks to BBC team

After 10 days of demonstrations, Mubarak was still clinging on to power and the protesters began to wonder if their efforts were in vain.

Either they kill all of us, or this guy, the President, leaves!
Hamsa, age 16

Hamsa is 16 and camped in the square for the duration of the protests. He described frustration as protesters waited for the president to stand aside: "On Thursday we expected Mubarak to say, 'I the President of Egypt have decided to step down.' But it was disappointing. He didn't say it.

"Then the protestors started moving, trying to leave Tahrir Square. We knew there was no choice but to find a final solution. Either they kill all of us, or this guy, the President leaves!"

After 18 difficult days, Hamsa finally heard the news which he and his fellow protestors had been waiting for: "When President Mubarak said, 'I'm stepping down as the President of Egypt' we didn't believe him. But then we checked the news, and heard that it was true, and then we felt that God has helped us finish this."

There were lots of celebrations after Mubarak left. Sohaib was ecstatic: "The day Mubarak stepped down, I was in the square. I was so happy and excited, I kept hugging people everyone. Anybody I met in the street, I just hugged."

Salma's father returned from the field hospital unhurt. Salma says that overcoming Mubarak was difficult but she is so glad that they managed it and she feels proud to be Egyptian.

Revolution in the classroom

Egyptian pupils talk to BBC team

The scenes that young people witnessed during the demonstrations will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Their school is doing everything it can to help them express their feelings.

Inspired by their experiences in Tahrir Square, these students are organising their own revolution. They have come up with a list of demands for how they want their school to be improved.

In the spirit of the revolution, their head teacher agreed to meet some of the students' demands when they returned to school in February: "The day after we came back to school we called a meeting with the students and told them we would make some concessions.

"We started by reducing the prices in the school canteen, and we announced it on the school radio."

A new dawn for Egypt

The pupils have strong views on what they want for their school, but what do they want for the new Egypt?

Mohamed, age 15, said: "I want no more sabotage of buildings and to live in freedom. I want there to be jobs for the people and to have my voice heard."

Many students commented on the dramatic effect the revolution has had on public solidarity and that people now feel part of the country again:

"Citizens before the revolution were apathetic and careless. We didn't care about what is happening because we felt the country was not ours. But now the revolution has succeeded, everyone feels this country is theirs and that's why we will try to rebuild it and make it a better place."

Pupils told us they are proud of their country: "Egypt is the cradle of civilisation. It's a great country and I hope that it will become one of the leading countries in the world again.

"Many scientists came from Egypt, many philosophers came from Egypt, and I think it will be a great country again very soon."

Since the revolution, Egypt has been governed by an interim military council. Elections are promised later this year.

Then Egyptians and their new government face will many challenges including widespread poverty and high unemployment.

These students in Cairo are optimistic about the future, but like many Egyptians, they are also realistic. They have experienced first hand the challenges faced on the road to freedom. And now they, along with the rest of the world, are waiting to see the shape the new Egypt will take.

Assembly resources - Video, scripts and discussion prompts to bring the stories of young Egyptian activists to your school.

Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production

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In Pictures: Egyptian Revolution
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