Education & Family

Egyptian children tell revolution tales

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Media captionPupils in Cairo look back at the demonstrations

Cairo schools were closed during the Egyptian revolution in January and February. Many young people and children took part in the protests with their families - some have told their stories as part of the BBC and British Council's World Class initiative.

Violent scenes

Aya, 14, spent 18 days in Tahrir Square with her family, protesting against Mr Mubarak's regime.

She saw lots of violence in the square and remembers her brother being hit by flying glass when a windscreen was smashed, and her cousin being struck by rubber bullets.

Sohaib is 14, and after he finished his school exams he marched 20km from his home to the demonstrations in the centre of Cairo on Friday 28 January, which were dubbed the "Friday of Wrath".

He protested in the square until Mubarak left. "A tear gas bomb fell next to my leg," he remembered, "and when the gas got in my eyes it made me cry and I fell to the ground".

There were lots of injuries and violence during the protests.

Salma, also 14, went to the demonstrations with her family.

Her father is a doctor specialising in eye treatment.

"During the protests he went to the field hospital and treated the injured eyes of the protesters. Then with the help of others, he managed to turn a small mosque close to the square into a field hospital, and they treated lots of injured people," she said.

"I was so worried about my father. There was a media blackout... the internet was down, I couldn't get hold of him on his mobile. All we could do was sit and watch the TV, and they were talking about violent scenes and people being injured and killed," she said.

Protesters unite

Image caption Egyptian pupils waves the national flag

The students say the violence was distressing, but what they remember most is the unity of the protesters and the friendly atmosphere among those gathered in the square.

Aya recalls some practical difficulties during the protests, with basic necessities such as eating and sleeping:

"I wore the same dress for 3 days without changing. There were many challenges, but all the protesters were like one, big family.

"One day, my mum was bursting for the toilet…, but there were long queues for the loo in the square. So we knocked on the door of a house… Someone opened it and we saw a Christian cross on the wall. The man welcomed us even though we are Muslims and said 'no problem at all'. Mum went to the toilet, and then we washed and prayed in his house," Aya said.

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Media captionCairo children share their experiences of the revolution

Mubarak steps down

After 10 days of demonstrations, Mubarak was still clinging on to power and the young people began to wonder if their efforts were in vain.

Hamsa, 16, camped in the square for the duration of the protests. He described frustration as protesters waited for the president to stand aside: "On Thursday we expected Mubarak to say, 'I, the president of Egypt have decided to step down.' But it was disappointing. He didn't say it.

"Then the protesters started moving, trying to leave Tahrir Square. We knew there was no choice but to find a final solution. Either they kill all of us, or this guy, the president leaves!"

After 18 difficult days, Hamsa finally heard the news that he and his fellow protesters had been waiting for.

"When President Mubarak said, 'I'm stepping down as the President of Egypt' we didn't believe him. But then we checked the news, and heard that it was true, and then we felt that God has helped us finish this."

There were major celebrations after Mubarak left.

Sohaib was ecstatic: "I was so happy and excited, I kept hugging people everyone. Anybody I met in the street, I just hugged."

Salma's father returned from the field hospital unhurt. Salma says that overcoming Mr Mubarak was difficult but she is so glad that they managed it and says she feels proud to be Egyptian.

Revolution at school

Inspired by their experiences in Tahrir Square, these students are now organising their own revolution. They have come up with a list of demands for how they want their school to be improved.

In the spirit of the revolution, their head teacher agreed to meet some of the students' demands when they returned to school in February:

"The day after we came back to school we called a meeting with the students and told them we would make some concessions," he said.

Image caption Patriotic paintings on the school walls

"We started by reducing the prices in the school canteen, and we announced it on the school radio."

A new dawn for Egypt

The pupils have strong views on what they want for their school, but what do they want for the new Egypt?

Mohamed, age 15, said: "I want no more damage to buildings and to live in freedom. I want there to be jobs for the people and to have my voice heard."

Since the revolution, Egypt has been governed by an interim military council. Elections are promised later this year.

Then Egyptians and their new government face will many challenges including widespread poverty and high unemployment.

But although they recognise the road ahead will not be easy, the students remain optimistic.

"Citizens before the revolution were apathetic and careless. We didn't care about what is happening because we felt the country was not ours. But now the revolution has succeeded, everyone feels this country is theirs and that's why we will try to rebuild it and make it a better place," said Jihad, age 14.

Schools World Service is a BBC - British Council co-production.

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