School students march from Ramses Street to Heliopolis. (Photo: Ekram Ibrahim)
On the first day of Egypt’s general strike, a coalition of students from nine schools led a march from Ramses to Heliopolis calling for the immediate handover of the ruling military council. In reaction to the calls for industrial action several schools granted their students a day off.
A few hundred school students started the march with a one minute silence mourning the death of one of their fellow students, Karim Khouzam, a freshman at the German University in Cairo studying management, who was killed during the recent Port Said football stadium disaster, which saw the deaths of over 74 Ahly team fans.
The schools which took part in the march included Collège de la Sainte Famille, referred to as Jesuites, Sacre Coeur, College De La Salle, Mere de Dieu, Ramses College for Girls, New Ramses College, Notre Dame, the German School (Deutsche Evangelische Oberschule) and Saint Anne School.
There were fewer numbers than expected as three students claimed that on Friday night they had been threatened by anonymous callers because of their involvement in the strike action. “I got a private caller on my cell phone, as I picked up a male voice told me my name and my exact home address and then said that if left home on Saturday he would be waiting for me,” Mireille Mamdouh, the administrator of the Facebook page calling for the march and a student at Le Sacre Coeur School, told Ahram Online.
The recent death of their fellow student appeared to trigger the strike action, as many students claimed they were not usually politically active. “I am here because Karim is my friend and because I believe the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) killed him,” David Anis, a freshman at Ain Shams University and a graduate of Jesuites School, told Ahram Online. For some students the march after Khouzam’s memorial was the first time they have participated in a protest against the regime.
However there were some students who are frequent visitors to Tahrir Square, often getting involved in marches and even being present at the recent clashes with Egypt's security forces in Mohamed Mahmoud street.
“I am here to ensure the ruling military council leaves,” Nada El-Asswany told Ahram Online whilst handing out No to Military Trials for Civilians stickers. El-Asswany was among many students distributing the stickers affiliated with the campaign to ensure protesters arrested by Egypt's security forces face fair trials in civilian courts. Many students expressed their endorsement of the movement.
During the march, students held banners asking the military council to step down. Some banners asked the media to report on the continued violations against Egyptian people by the state whilst others featured the picture of their dead friend. The students also carried an empty coffin covered with the Egyptian flag.
The march left from Ramses Street and went to Heart of Jesus Church in Heliopolis. The group planned to hold another minute silence at the church which hosted Khouzam's funeral.
Parents and teachers decided to join the march in order to protect the students after Friday night’s threats. “I asked pupils who got threatened not to show up today but I am really proud of their insistence and bravery,” Mariam Meky, a Spanish teacher for more than one of the schools participating in the march, told Ahram Online.
While many students will resume school on Monday, Mere de Dieu students plan to remain on strike in order to finish the scheduled three days of action. “What is really unique about our generation is that we no longer fear death, we are ready to face anything,” Mamdouh told Ahram Online.
Several revolutionary forces have called for a general strike as a preparatory footstep to civil disobedience aimed at forcing an immediate handover of power from the ruling military council to a civil authority.