Shubra students collect garbage before class

There are no longer any complaints about damaged desks, broken windows or ramshackle bathrooms — the secondary school at the Mohamed Fouad el-Deen Institue of Al-Azhar in Cairo’s Shubra el-Kheima district has much bigger problems to contend with.

At noon, like clockwork, students begin surreptitiously leaving. "We swear to God we’re not cutting class," they say. "We’re just running away from teachers who force us to collect garbage from the school playground every day."

Students say they had been encouraged by teachers to join the local chapter of the boy scouts. After joining up, however, they soon discovered that scout membership meant cleaning up classrooms and picking up and burning garbage. "Soon we’ll be cleaning teachers’ homes as well," claimed one disillusioned young scout.

"We thought all this would end with the precautions against swine flu," said secondary school student Mohamed Hussein. "But we were surprised to find teachers still asking us to pick up garbage from the classroom and dump it in the corner before lessons."

Mohamed Nabil, another student, pointed to the school’s dilapidated infrastructure, saying that, since his enrollment, "I’ve seen no attention given to cleanliness." He went on to complain of broken windows and chairs, along with notoriously run-down toilets. "We’re forced to relieve ourselves out by the back fence," he said.

Nabil added: "Students here are more prone to contracting swine flu, especially given that most of the teachers are sheikhs that frequently perform the umra pilgrimage [to Saudi Arabia] and meet regularly with Indonesian and Pakistani students from Al-Azhar."

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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