Are you a C or an M? Labelling children in Cairo
A former journalist recounts her experience as a teacher in the Egyptian capital.
In my first week as a teacher, I was given a list of my pupils. Each had a letter in the column beside his or her name, either a C or an M. Nada and Daniel and Sara were Cs. Other students – I believe the rest of them – were Ms.
I didn’t pay much attention to this, except perhaps to the novelty of it. Perhaps I assumed that these letters were meant to increase teacher sensitivity around the holidays. I certainly didn’t see it as a fundamental division in a country growing more and more divided along criss-crossing fault lines of suburban and urban, Muslim and Christian, private- and government-school educated.
A decade has passed, and my eldest son is now in school with a letter appended to his name. A bomb has gone off at an Alexandria church. People have been shot; one man was allegedly beaten to death during interrogation; others were imprisoned for protesting against the situation. The letter next to a child’s name, C or M, has taken on a different dimension.