Egyptian schoolgirl dies week after teacher hit her on head with stick

Bismallah Mohammed is the third girl to die at school since school year began on October 2

Pupils at a school in Cairo. EPA
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An Egyptian schoolgirl, 10, who went into a coma after her teacher hit her on the head with a stick died on Sunday, authorities said.

They said Bismallah Mohammed died in hospital in the city of El Sinbellawein, north of the capital Cairo.

She was the third Egyptian girl to have died in incidents at school since the academic year began on October 2.

Also last week, an employee stabbed the head teacher of a girls’ school in southern Egypt while staff members and pupils were gathered for a morning assembly.

The head teacher suffered superficial wounds and was released from hospital the same day.

Bismallah was hit on the head by her Arabic teacher on October 2, the first day of school, when she made a spelling mistake writing on the blackboard, authorities said.

Schoolgirls during assembly at a private school in Cairo, Egypt. EPA

She lost consciousness shortly after she went home from school. She was rushed to hospital by her father, who told prosecutors that she never regained consciousness.

The teacher, who is in his 50s, has been arrested and the school’s head teacher has been suspended pending the completion of an investigation.

Last Monday a girl, 7, died after falling out of a third-storey window at her Cairo school as she ran away from a teacher who was allegedly trying to physically punish her. The teacher has been arrested.

On the previous day, a girl died and 15 were injured when a staircase partially collapsed as they ran to their classes after a break in a town near Cairo. Authorities are investigating the incident.

Although banned by law, physical punishment is not uncommon at state schools in Egypt, where many teachers use rulers, wooden sticks or even tree branches to hit pupils. Verbal insults are also common.

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

There are about 9,000 private schools, where classes resumed after the summer break in September.

Many of Egypt’s state schools suffer from decades of neglect. They are overcrowded, lack sufficient facilities and many buildings are in desperate need of renovation or reconstruction.

Schoolgirls at a private school in Cairo, Egypt. EPA

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

Also last week, authorities ordered an investigation into a report on a popular talk show saying parents had to clean away mounds of rubbish from a Nile Delta school their children are attending.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi recently said that while reforming the school system was important and sorely needed, Egyptians would not have tolerated money going to education while they had no reliable electricity, roads or 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,” Mr El Sisi said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. Reuters.

He has since taking office in 2014 launched an ambitious drive to overhaul the economy and the country’s infrastructure.

Mr El Sisi's government has built nearly two dozen cities, including a new capital in the desert east of Cairo, an elaborate road network and new, cutting-edge transport systems 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 regularly complain 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.

Last week, Mr El Sisi sought to ease growing worries about the economy, reassuring Egyptians his government would pull them through.

“We will, by the grace of God, sail through these difficult circumstances,” he said.

Updated: October 10, 2022, 3:17 AM