Egyptian Students Speak Out
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
Revere High School is a gateway community, with students from every corner of the globe. This diversity allows our students to truly be citizens of the world. They are able to share their worldview and their experiences with one another. When the revolution ignited in Egypt, many of our students were able to give accurate accounts and personal perspectives of the events as they unfolded.
This morning, Marwa Salem, Mohamed Noufal, Ahmed Ahmed, Mekdad Elbehisi, and Mosaab Elbehisi met with me to discuss the history being made in Egypt. All five students hail from Egypt, and they each have immediate family still living in the country. They are optimistic about the events occurring in their country and proud that the people's voices have been heard.
Because all of the students still have close relatives and friends in Egypt, they were very concerned when the protests began. Each of the students said they came to the United States for educational opportunities. Mohamed has been in the United States for three years. He attended private school in Egypt, which he said was very expensive. Private schools, Mohamed explained, were the only option if you wanted to get a good education. The Egyptian educational system was quite different than the American school system, and not everyone had the same opportunities.
Ahmed Ahmed has been in the U.S. for about ten years, but he and his family visit Egypt each summer. This past summer Ahmed noticed that prices in Egypt had risen to even higher levels. He witnessed people living on the streets and much more poverty. The people of Egypt were struggling, and it was painfully apparent. Mohamed added that at that time 41% of Egyptian people lived in poverty, and that most of the people he knew earned only about $70 dollars per month.
All of the students had felt that Egypt was in trouble: so many people lived in poverty, resources were scarce, and only the very wealthy seemed to be surviving. Most Egyptians had been fed up with Mubarak's long reign. Because of the state of emergency in Egypt, Mubarak had been able to ignore laws, disregard election results, and censor the people and the press. Mohamed and Ahmed both talked about the dangers of speaking out against Mubarak, which could result in jail time or even death. Even so, all of the students, except Mohamed, said that they had not anticipated things happening so rapidly. Mohamed said he felt that the Egyptian revolution had been inspired by the earlier uprising in Tunisia, and he knew his country was headed toward change.
Mohamed's hopes for Egypt are that the police and military will respect the people of Egypt. He wants to see all Egyptians being treated fairly and respectfully, not just those who are wealthy. "A person who doesn't have money, "Mohamed explained, "they will suffer their whole life." Both Mohamed and Ahmed hope to see to see a new leader in control who cares about the people. "Mubarak was living in another world," Mohamed said. "He was completely out of touch with the people. If a president knows his people, he can make a difference. A leader cannot exploit the country. Egypt is rich. But you must care about the people." Mohamed thinks that Amr Mohammed Moussa may be the man for the job.
All of the students hope to visit Egypt soon, although only Mawra's family will be heading back this summer. "I wanted to go back this summer," Mohamed said. "But my dad told me he is not going to let me because it is not safe for me. He said he will give me money to travel next year but not this year. It's just not safe." Ahmed anticipates "more jobs and more money, so that people can support their families." He, too, would like to return to Egypt, but may wait a while before he does so.
Mawra feels "that the whole government is going to change for the better now. The people will be empowered, and there will be freedom." She hopes that when she visits Egypt this summer she can take part in the process of change. "I don't want to go for a vacation; I want to help out," she said.
Brothers Mekdad and Mosaab have been in the U.S. for two and a half years. Mekdad explained that while living in Egypt, they were not affected as badly as others because their father worked outside of Egypt in the United Arab Emirates. They have not been back to Egypt since moving to Massachusetts, but they have followed the dawning of the new era in Egypt closely. Mekdad said he felt both good and bad while watching what was happening in Egypt. "I felt so bad, but I felt good at the same time because we need revolution," Mekdad said. "We need a new president. Egypt needs to get better. I'd like to see more technology, an improved economy, and better education."
Both Mekdad and Mosaab said that if they had been in Egypt during the time of revolution, they would have been protesting in the streets. "We would want to help our country," Mosaab said. Mekdad has hopes that Egypt will move towards a democracy. Even so, Mosaab says he would like to stay in America. "I appreciate the freedom that Americans have," he said.
All students at Revere High are fortunate that they can experience a unique understanding of history as it's occurring through the eyes of their fellow students. Ahmed said he appreciated the concern of his teachers and fellow students, and he was happy to answer questions and to discuss what was going on. The Egyptian students have provided their peers with a personal perspective of the revolution, which gives a sense of immediacy and significance to the situation.
For more on what is going on Egypt, please check out "Fast Facts: Egypt." To learn more about the Egyptian Revolution, see Scholastic News Kids Press Corps' article "Egyptian President Steps Down." "Background: MIddle East" provides a comprehensive look at this important part of the globe. To understand President Obama's hopes for the Middle East, check out "Obama Presses Egypt's Military on Democracy." Finally, MEMRI TV, the Middle East Media Research Institute TV Monitor Project, has a wonderful video entitled "Egypt Uprising — Young Egyptian Performers Recruit Al-Tahrir Square Protesters and Slogans for New Hit: The Voice of Freedom" that will allow students to experience the passion behind the revolution.