An image circulated on social media of the pupil list at an Egyptian school has prompted concerns about possible discrimination. One Egyptian MP has even tabled a parliamentary question to ask if pupils are being separated according to their religion.
The image confirmed that staff at Damanhour Shoubra Official Language School in Qalyubia governorate have allocated a class for Christian students in the fourth primary grade and separated them from their Muslim peers.
"Such segregation, whether by an individual or institution, clearly reflects a complete absence of the notion of citizenship and non-discrimination between citizens on a religious basis," said Deputy Maha Abdel Nasser of the Social Democratic Party. "It is behaviour that deserves severe punishment and not just a hasty media denial or talking about retracting or amending it as a 'mere formal error'."
The parliamentarian added that if the separation of students is done randomly and not according to a clear policy and procedure, then the situation in question must act as a warning bell and dealt with through the implementation of a clear mechanism. She cited the example of alphabetical student lists as used in many colleges and universities. Any such non-discriminatory procedures must be disseminated widely, she insisted. "Discrimination of any kind is wrong, whether by teachers or school administrators."
The Ministry of Education demanded an investigation into this issue. In response, the school said that the separation was made to ease access to religious lessons for Christian pupils. Nevertheless, the decision has been reversed and Christian and Muslim pupils are now taught in the same classrooms.