Believe it or not, 15-year-old children in their first year of upper school have scared the Egyptian government which mobilised the security forces because the youngsters left their examination rooms angry at having to tackle the test papers on tablets. This new scheme was forced on them by the Ministry of Education despite the weak internet connection in Egypt, which caused the system to crash. The students were unable to complete their exams.
Instead, they started a protest to express their anger and discontent with the new system that proved to be a failure during the first term this year. The Education Minister was expected to abandon the tablets and return to the tried and tested old way until such time as the infrastructure and internet connection in Egypt improve and are capable of such use. However, he insisted on using the new system for the final exams; the children refused to accept this interference in their future, so they took to the streets to defend it. The government could not accept this and ordered that they are confronted and attacked by the security forces.
It is both funny and ironic that when social media sites were filled with pictures showing security personnel in uniform dragging little girls on the ground, pointing their weapons at school children and surrounding them, and their scandalous actions were exposed to the world, the interior ministry issued a statement denying what had happened. It claimed that these men were not police officers, despite the official uniforms that they were wearing.
It was a disgraceful scene which the government could not hide, although it tried. All of the dramas on TV this Ramadan have been trying to improve and humanise the image of the police and their actions towards the Egyptian people, all of which has been undone by the reality, which was far beyond the imagination of any scriptwriter or director with million-dollar budgets. The incident showed the true nature of the police in Egypt, which is beyond any efforts to whitewash their image.
What frightened the government about a protest staged by 15-year-old schoolchildren? In the eyes of the government, the matter went beyond their objections to the exam. They read the situation very differently as the seed of another revolution in the minds of the new generation. They did not think that the revolutionary torch would be passed on to the youngsters after their fathers’ failure in the first wave of the revolution of 2011-2013. The government is afraid that the revolutionary spirit has been renewed within the Egyptian people having grown frustrated at the military coup and its iron grip on the country, so it had to eliminate the protests with violence and arrests. Officials look at the second wave of Arab Spring revolutions in Algeria and Sudan with trepidation.
These students were seven years old when the 25 January 2011 revolution occurred. Of course, they did not take part, but they watched as their parents went through the greatest event in Egypt’s modern history. Perhaps they clapped and rejoiced with the people without understanding the magnitude of what was happening, but they joined in with the joyous scenes in their homes and on their TV screens. Such happiness has been stored in the deep recesses of their minds and hearts, and it is this which the government has not yet realised. Instead, it still believes that by oppressing the people and filling the prisons with thousands of honourable, innocent youngsters, the elderly and women, whose only “crime” is to desire freedom, democracy, justice and dignity, it can eliminate the spirit of revolution in the hearts of the Egyptians. The government has not yet understood that the spirit of revolution is rooted in the hearts of the people, despite the repression.
The brutal attack on secondary school students shows that the coup-led regime in Egypt is fragile and at its weakest point, regardless of the image that it is trying to portray to the world of a strong government in control of the country. The world now knows for sure what a cowardly government it is; that it is afraid of children. Perhaps this fear will encourage a new generation and will be the spark to ignite the second wave of the wounded January Revolution.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.