Egyptian authorities have shut down a Cairo school after a student was brutally beaten to death in the latest high-profile case of violence against schoolchildren in Egypt. The country’s newly appointed education minister Moheb El-Rafie ordered the temporary closure of Cairo’s Al-Shuhada elementary school while prosecutors investigate the child’s death, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported Monday.
The unnamed fifth-grader was reportedly beaten by his teacher at the public school in Cairo’s working-class Sayeda Zeinab district. The unconscious student was later brought to a hospital Thursday where he was said to have died from a brain hemorrhage due to severe head injuries. Authorities have ordered the detention of the teacher, who was initially charged with excessive force and will now face charges of beating leading to death, a local prosecutor told the Aswat Masriya news site. The child’s body is now being examined by the country’s Forensic Authority to identify the cause of death.
While a ministerial decree in 1998 prohibited any form of corporal punishment and physical assault against students, the beating of children is nonetheless widespread and common in Egyptian society, according to the Egyptian website CairoScene. The problem is partly attributed to minimal accountability and low oversight of underpaid teachers in the public school system. Even after the 2008 killing of a student in Alexandria by a math teacher who was later sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter for fatally kicking the child in the chest, corporal punishment in Egyptian schools remains endemic.
The nonprofit organization Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions said late last year that the government was not paying attention to violations and negligence in schools amid mounting corruption within the country’s education ministry, according to Mada Masr. The organization released a report citing 265 cases of abuses against children, mainly in elementary school, in one term alone. Among them were six assaults resulting in death, 10 instances of sexual abuse and 208 cases of food poisoning from school meals. The report also called for the resignation of former Education minister Mahmoud Abul Nasr.