by Ahmed Tharwat
The aftermath of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, that took at least 17 people lives and injured at least 14 others. Students and activists have organized two major national events” ; the National School Walkout on March 14 and the March for Our Lives on March 24 to Washington D.C. Both events focusing on telling Trump and cCongressmen “Enough is Enough”.
Sounding like millions of people chant at Tahrir Square, that toppled 30 years of dictatorship, 7 years ago. The Trump NRA script idea of arming teachers with guns, is another uncooked idea to worthy of a 3am tweet; in fact Arming teachers will hurt students and not protecting them, specially students of color; as Jamelle Bouie wrote in Slate.com. “groups at the bottom of American race hierarchy receive the brunt of state violence, full stop.”
There are as many guns as people in this country, however most of the violence is committed against people not government. In Egypt where I grew up in the 60’s, I hardily saw a gun, even in my military service and most of the violence was committed by the government. Egyptians had the political well to revolt and to topple governments without guns, Arab Spring comes to mind. Guns nuts lovers ironically hate government restrictions and interferences, but they support police brutality against blacks, and support our military violence against color people abroad.
Schools in Egypt where I grew up, violence was only limited to fist fight and arms wrestling , Teachers didn’t have guns in my school, but they had access to another weapon, whipping sticks of their choices, and they willfully used and there were painful.
At school, most terrified thing for students wasn’t guns, it was the type and shape of the teachers’ whipping sticks. At the beginning of class year, each teacher (all Males) came to our classrooms flashing their sticks in front of classroom a warning for what to expect. Teachers whipping sticks came in all kind of forms and shapes, based on teachers brutalities and personalities; a slick tree branch, an abandoned piece of wood, or a measurement ruler to a more elaborate leather covered one. Some teachers even gave their sticks nicknames, always a feminist name “elGaladah, el-lahloobah, Zainab, Azizah, and Mahroosha.. ete.”
There was one clear character about your teacher that will decide the level of your school-year misery index; the kind of whipping stick in his hands. The stick was an extension of teacher’s power and authority. Teachers weren’t just our educators, they were also our moral cops, and disciplinarians.
As a youngster, I was a privileged student, my family ran the only school in the village. I owned the whole school chain of command; the general headmaster was my grandfather, principle was my dad, most of teachers are relatives. Students looked at me with suspicious, never completely trusted me. I had to behave, speak and dress properly, a price you pay for being the son of the principle. I tried to avoid troubles at all costs, never complains and minded my own business. Every morning on the school yard, an out of town teacher, (wasn’t an uncle), led the morning flag salute ceremony, students lined up to honor the flag and chant the national anthem, then dismissed to classrooms.
The out-of-town teacher not so versed on our village costume and economic standing, where wearing shoes were looked at as a luxury or unpractical city dress code. The teacher with a snappish city attitude thought otherwise. Bare feet students for him, were gangster and troublemakers.
He was determined to do something about it and teach those students a listen. Every morning, he announced on the public speaker, the most humiliating morning announcement. “Those scumbags, who aren’t wearing their shoes, should stay in the school yard for further disciplines. In the cold morning where the shivering underdressed bare feet students wait for their unavoidable fate. After a plethora of curses lecturing on family’s manners, the teacher walk around checking each student feet, then asking each violator to step out, extend his hands, and beat them with his whipping stick.
After the teacher satisfies his narcissistic thirst, leaves students in the school yard alone to lick their own humiliation for the rest of day. My persistent complains attempts to my dad, fell on deaf ears, my dad had more pressing issues to deal with; like making sure class room have enough supplies, lights, and teachers.
Running a village school, is like running city council responsible of all villages problems. I decided to take the natter into my own hands. I decided to take a stand, to confront the teacher’s morning transgression. I had my plot drafted, what if I came to school barefoot and join those unfortunate students. For the son of the principle, to walk barefoot in public, let alone in school, almost a wardrobe malfunction.
Shoes with their impracticability on the dusty village roads, still the proper thing to do for the principle’s son. On a cold morning I left the house as I always did, dressed properly, white shirt, short and my beloved shoe. This allowed me to pass family’s dress inspection. I walked to school through villagers piercing eyes, everyone in the village knew the principle’s son. The school, which was located on the outskirt of the village by the rice fields, I walked in and quietly took my shoes off and hid them inside a nearby pushes. Sneaked into the schoolyard where students congregated for the flag salute and national anthem. Then came the shoe wearing rule announcement, “any student not wearing his shoes, should stay in school ground” screamed the city teacher.
I was ready, I was motivated, I stood my ground, I stood in the middle of the violators student line, students started wondering about my bare feet, some were too occupied with their painful fate., as the teacher went on his sadistic punishing routine, cursing and beating each student on his extended hands, not aware of my present at the middle of the fire lie. I stood as calm as a young student could muster, waiting for my fate and also for the teacher fate. As the sound of whipping stick striking the flushes of students bare hands got closer, my heart started bounding inside my chest, sending warning of the gravity of the situation, my face was motionless and my feet were anxious.
The shoe inspector teacher never looked at students faces as he was marching on the beating trail. I was next in the beaten trail, the other students were interested to see how this confrontation is going to pan out. The teacher noticed then my presence, showed a trouble look on his face, presented with a moral and personal dilemma.
Students were all watching, cursing or beating son of principle was a rarity in my school, have I mentioned that I was a privileged student. The teacher looked at me realizing the gravity of situation, put his stick down, and quietly walked away serenading in defeat!!
I was the school hero that day!! Not because I was the son of the school’s principle, but because I was son of the whole village. Sometimes, it takes a child to raise a village.