Egyptian girl, 7, becomes second to die at school in a week

Chased by a teacher who wanted to punish her, the child fell from the school's third storey

Schoolgirls at the morning assembly on the first day of school in Cairo, Egypt. EPA
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A 7-year-old Egyptian schoolgirl died on Monday after she fell out of a third-storey window at her Cairo school, authorities said.

The pupil, who was running to escape physical punishment from her teacher, became the second Egyptian schoolgirl in as many days to die while at school, marking a grim start to the 2022-23 school year.

On Sunday, a schoolgirl from the town of Kirdasah near Cairo was killed and 15 were injured when a staircase at their school partially collapsed as they returned to their classroom after a break.

After she fell from the window, the girl was taken to hospital but succumbed to her wounds. The teacher who was chasing her has been detained, a police report showed. The girl attended school in the Nile-side Cairo district of Agouza.

The identities of the two girls, as well as the teacher attempting to punish the pupil, have been withheld.

A classroom in a Cairo school. Reuters

Although banned by law, physical punishment is not uncommon at state schools in Egypt, where many teachers use rulers, tree branches or their hands to hit pupils, ostensibly to discipline them. Verbal insults are equally common.

There are 25 million schoolchildren in Egypt, a country of 104 million, and they attend nearly 50,000 state schools.

Classes at private schools, which number about 9,000, began two weeks ago.

Many of Egypt’s state schools are overcrowded, lack sufficient facilities and include buildings that are in desperate need of renovation or rebuilding.

Authorities say 130 billion Egyptian pounds (about $700 million) are needed to build 250,000 classrooms to end overcrowding.

Separately, authorities on Monday ordered an investigation into a report on a popular talk show that parents faced with mounds of trash in a Nile delta school their children are attending had cleaned the area themselves.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. AP

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi recently responded to questions raised about his government’s spending priorities, arguing that while reforming the school system was both important and sorely needed, Egyptians would not have tolerated resources going to education while they had no reliable electricity, roads or sufficient food supplies.

“We as people, as regular citizens on the streets, would not have stomached the consequences of placing the country’s entire limited resources on education,” he said.

Mr El Sisi has embarked on an ambitious drive to overhaul the economy and the country’s infrastructure. His government has built nearly two dozen new cities, including a new capital in the desert west of Cairo, an elaborate road network and new, cutting-edge transport modes running on clean energy.

The new school year in Egypt began against the backdrop of an acute economic crisis caused, in large part, by the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war.

Parents have complained bitterly about the rising cost of school supplies on top of the recent surge in the price of food.

The Egyptian pound has depreciated by more than 20 per cent against the US dollar since March, causing steep price increases across the board in a country saddled with an annual $75bn import bill. Inflation rose to about 14 per cent in August, the most recent month for which figures were available.

A woman walks out of a foreign currency exchange bureau in Cairo. AFP
Updated: October 05, 2022, 7:29 AM