Tahrir Square's spontaneous kindergarten

Mosa'ab Elshamy -- a photographer and pharmacy student who attended the Tahrir Square rallies in Egypt -- describes the volunteer-run kindergartens that spontaneously popped up in the square to care for the children who came with their families for the rallies:
It's difficult to estimate numbers, but I think not less than 10 percent of those present in Tahrir were families. They added a special spirit to what we started calling Republic of Tahrir. Some of the kids would do their own marches around the square, with people applauding and smiling at them. They were quite an integral part of the place and everyone took care of them. When Tahrir would get crowded and a kid got lost from his parents for a while, we would quickly mention their name in the large microphones set in the square and the parents would easily find them.

I wouldn't say the kindergarten idea was set up by specialists. But there were people of all professions in Tahrir which obviously included teachers. But many of those working on the kindergarten were ordinary mothers who would take care of the kids and look over them while they were painting or reading. It was usually set in the safest area of the square, just in case anything would happen, and the kids were being kept at a distance from any possible tension. But obviously it wasn't professionally set up. I mean, it didn't have working hours or a fixed schedule, because the place was quickly developing and changes were taking place from day to day. Still, the main core was maintained and any kid could join, play with others for some time, and indulge in children's activities for a while. It was quite heartening to say the least.

Did You Know There Was a Pop-Up Kindergarten in Tahrir Square? (Thanks, Rufusstripe, via Submitterator!)

(Image: children creating art in tahrir, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Yasmin Moll's photostream)


  1. When working at music festivals in the UK, we can’t announce the discovery of a lost child over out walkie-talkies without using secret codes, let alone any sort of PA system. Just in case some hypothetical paedophiles will swoop in and claim the infant.

    We’re also not permitted to accompany it to the lost children tent without backup, for fear of being accused of swooping and claiming ourselves.

    I like their system better.

  2. Unfortunately this kindergarten story and probably the entire revolution itself is about to be overshadowed in the American mind by the news that Lara Logan, the CBS corespondent was viciously gang raped and nearly beaten to death in Tahir Square, not far from the location of the kindergarten.

    These filthy maggot Egyptian rapists just confirmed the worst stereotypes in the mind of every racist bigot about Arabs, and all these nice stories about kindergartens and heroic freedom fighters etc. are about to be buried forever in this rape story’s wake.

    1. Yes, when I saw the picture of the ‘kindergarten’ it was negated by the ‘rape room’. When a woman in the street can be pulled away in the middle of a crowd and raped for a half hour by multiple men, it makes me think this ‘revolution’ was just a TV show and the very few women present were just window dressing. I noticed they all had to wear a hijab to begin to be safe. The Women’s March on Versailles was one of the turning points of the French Revolution; It was women’s protests that began the Russian Revolution. Bt n Mslm cntry wmn r rpd s prt f th rvltn, jst t rmnd thm tht frdm nd qlty dn’t xtnd t thm.

      1. Regarding the rape story:

        According to reports: “She was saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers, the network said. The Associated Press does not name victims of a sexual assault unless the victim agrees to it.”

        Compare that to a story that happened here, not too far away from San Francisco, in the good old USA: http://sfist.com/2009/10/26/student_gang_raped_at_richmond_high.php
        “’At one point there were four individuals who were physically assaulting our victim – she was raped, she had been robbed. We are working backwards to identified the other individuals,'” Lt. Mark Gagan said. “‘Throughout the incident, several people walked by, heard a commotion, came over and saw what was going on and either observed or left, but did not report what was going on. To me, that is the most disturbing part of this.'”

        RAPE IS NEVER JUSTIFIED. “Revolution” or not, women’s injustice is a GLOBAL ISSUE.

      2. I had a word to describe condemning a group due to the reprehensible actions of a few of its members. What was it?

        Roshashanism? Rashism? Bogotree? I can’t remember. I’m sure I’ll think of it. Meanwhile, you weren’t paying any attention to the protests were you? Just another mindless Muslim mob. Because if you had, you’d have seen women who weren’t wearing hijab all the fuck over the news coverage- as well as those who do.

        It says nothing about Egypt but that they’re a patriarchy that this happened.

      3. Allie, please don’t use your anger at the men who raped Ms Logan to fuel anti-Muslim bigotry. Rape isn’t unique to Muslim countries.

    2. Agreed on this. I’m sure Peter King will have a field day with it…

      And, not to feed the troll, as gjtorikian said, but Allie, rape is a major problem here, too,, let’s not forget. The San Fran gang rape is one instance, but we also have legislators looking to redefine rape as only “forcible” rape (or as Whoopie would say, “rape-rape”) and rename victims as “accussers”. Many women who have been raped just don’t report it, because of the scrutiny they sometimes get, especially if it’s party situation. And don’t forget the backlog of rape kits right across the country. Oh, and now there is a guy trying to pass a law that would essentially make it legal to shoot an abortion provider. This was horrible, what happened to Ms. Logan, and my heart truly goes out to her. She did not deserve this by any means. Those assholes should be lined up and shot — but it’s not like things are awesome here regarding the safety of women…. We shouldn’t let the actions of some color our view of all Egyptians/Arabs/Muslims, or their multifaceted culture. I don’t believe most would condone this at all.

  3. I doubt it… sure it will be a big thing in the US but beyond that it will just be a blip on the radar. If you cram in millions of people with a mix of pro-mubarak gangs roaming around and then the usuall mix of damn idiots as comes with any large number of people… then this sadly may happen.
    It would be strange to react now though. I mean the Alliance against terrorism sent hundreds if not thousands of people to be tortured in Egypt (because we wherent allowed to do it ourselves). The west supported mubarak with money and weapons and he used them on his own people. The amounts of rapes done in the state jails, we don’t even know.

    Its a horrible snippet of information, but I doubt it will overshadow the revolution at all and if someone thinks that it does. That this sullies the entire revolt – then someone should check the history of Egypt.
    Like I said, horrible, bad and awful – but not something that changes the positive side of the revolt.

  4. I tend to use facebook as my main link-dumping site.

    After a day of nothing but horror, shock, and depression (Glenn Greenwald/Dylan Rattigan’s interview regarding HBGary, S.Dakota’s insane new “killing abortion providers is ‘justifiable homicide'” bill, and others) this is the unicorniest unicorn chaser of them all.

    Hot-damn, Egypt. Way to go!

  5. The combination of soldiers stopped the rape and peaceful revolution will be lost on some people. I would suspect that more than a few of those people have a stake in the continuation of dictatorships around the world.

    I thought the story was kind of passe but seeing that people are still trying to discredit all Egyptians for what is likely the responsibility of the Mubaric regime and surely their responsibility. And by extension of the US and western supporters of Mubaric.

  6. Firstly, it’s Tahrir Square. Secondly, it doesn’t surprise me that this sort of thing would spring up. In many countries (not including the US, sadly; most of us are a bunch of selfish jerks), people are much more willing to help out others in their communities. Furthermore, children are much more welcome and more often included in daily life, in situations many Americans would never bring them into, or at least hesitate to do so. When so many people are coming together in Egypt to overthrow their repressive government, it makes sense they would spontaneously come together to create something like this.

  7. It’s a unique and wonderful occurrence for a story on the spontaneous schooling of children to turn quickly into a thread about brutal rapists and scary foreigners. Good show, internet.

  8. This looks to me like humanity defaulting to basics. Consider how our closest relative in the animal kingdom raise their young in a communal way, and that in earlier times, when the local community cooperated on farming a nearby field, one would take shared responsibility of the communities young.

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