A video that shows school children being abused by teachers has emerged on the Web. The compilation has sparked a debate across northern Africa – especially in Egypt – where the footage is thought to have been filmed.

Please be aware, the following images may be found upsetting.  

The video was posted on YouTube on Feb. 21, 2010. The date and location of the scenes shown in the video is not known, but the YouTuber who posted them, "hazemhassenahmed", says that they were shot in Tanta, Egypt (north of Cairo).

In the first part of the video, we see teachers hitting pupils. In the text that appears between the images, the teachers are compared with Hitler and Mussolini. "What do we learn from them? That brute force is the way to get things done".

In the second part of the video, we see pupils attacking a teacher, with the following comment: "If you teach them that violence prevails, this is what will happen." A scene of police brutality is then added at the end of the video.

The video has emerged at a time when Egypt is going through a controversial debate over its minister for education, Ahmed Zaki Badr, who condones corporal punishment in schools. The Egyptian press reported on Feb. 23, that a maths teacher broke the arm of one of his primary school pupils soon after Badr was appointed. 

The subject has been a particularly sensitive one since October 2008, when an 11-year-old boy was beaten to death by his teacher for not doing his homework. The lawyer of the accused said that "beating a child in school is not illegal", arguing that he had committed no crime. The teacher was however sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter in December of that year.

“If parents complain to the school, they get told ‘do you want your child to learn or not?’”

Rowayda Khaled Moshrif is a 13-year-old pupil at Saint Vincent de Paul secondary school in Cairo.

I go to a private school and here, the teachers don't hit the pupils. We're told that hitting students is bad. It's true that here there are 40 or 50 people in each class [much less than in state schools], and the rooms are big. I remember when I was in primary school, we were wrapped on the knuckles if we didn't do our homework. Sometimes we were slapped or had our shoulders pinched. But it wasn't that violent.

I know that in state schools, pupils do get hit. If parents complain to the school, they get told ‘do you want your child to learn or not?'"

“According to the education minister, teachers lose their authority when corporal punishment is banned”

Abdel Hafid Tayel is the director of the Egyptian Centre for Education Rights

There are several possible explanations for the bad behaviour of these teachers. First, there's the problem of their low salaries. Supply teachers are paid four euros for ten hours of teaching. And those who have full time contracts, only earn between 140 and 160 euros per month, whether they're primary, secondary or college teachers.

On top of that, the class loads are way over the limit. There can be up to 120 pupils in each. Teachers are simply overrun.

There's also a lack of control over teachers by the ministry. The primary concern of inspecting officers is to look out for teachers who criticise the government in front of pupils.

There's no law that bans corporal punishment, but a decree, signed by the former education minister, Hussein Kamel Baha Ed-dine. However, this could be revoked by the current minister, who's certainly not opposed to corporal punishment. According to him, teachers have lost their authority since the decree was brought in."