Death, sexual assault and mass food poisoning in first week of school

Familiar stories of overcrowded classes, rickety school buildings and dead and injured students have emerged since the start of the new academic year last week.

Such news has been especially hard hitting, given the Education Ministry’s assurances ahead of the new term that things would be better.

The ministry had announced that 189 new schools would be opened this year, and 187 expanded. However, schools have reportedly struggled to cope with the number of students since the start of the academic year.

Things got off to a rocky start when 108 students suffered from food poisoning in Beheira after eating snacks that parents say were sold in the school canteen on their first day back. Officials, however, maintain they were sold by a street vendor.  

Sunday brought more tragic news, as a 17-year-old was killed in a fight during recess in Gharbiya, according to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.

On Saturday night, a primary school student in Giza spoke on Al-Ashera Masa’an television talk show about a rape attempt at school. Nada said that while she was in school for an evening class, an older student pushed her into a classroom and took off her shoes and pants before she was able to escape.

Parents fed up with such incidents in public schools have staged numerous protests since the start of the new school year. On Sunday, a number of parents broke into a school in Alexandria and smashed desks and chairs in protest over the unsuitable condition of the school. Students were consequently told to stay home until more furniture was made available and the school made safe for them to return.

Education Minister Al-Helaly Al-Sherbiny and other officials have been making surprise visits to schools over the last week. During these visits they discovered a number of teachers who were absent, and referred them to investigation.

The last academic year witnessed several student deaths and injuries in public schools, many as the result of old or unsuitably maintained buildings.  


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