“We learn at school how to fill our minds with information that we don’t understand, without even questioning if the information is false or true. You aren’t supposed to wonder how this happened because you are only asked to memorise data without experiments or conclusions. That’s why Egypt’s education system ranks very low in global competitiveness reports.” This is how Ahmed Mahrous described his photography project “Happy Academic Year”, which aims to shed light on the setbacks in the Egyptian education system in past decades.
In his photos, students appear drowning in piles of paper and books with desperate looks on their faces, and their mouths covered in black muzzles to prevent them from asking questions or criticising what they are being taught. Some photos paid special attention to the useless ways of punishment that some teachers use, the piles of garbage in front of public schools, and the unhealthy bathrooms that may spread diseases.
“I thought about this project because I wanted to express the oppression I encountered in my school,” the 18-year-old photographer said. “I used to ask a lot of questions, but my teachers used to say ‘memorise it as it is to get good grades’. Therefore, I decided to work on a project to spotlight the hardships our students face in public schools, particularly the useless punishment methods and the large numbers of students in each class.”
However, finding a school to shoot inside wasn’t an easy task. “I’ve been searching for a school for two months and I found a suitable one in Shubra-El-Kheima one day before the shooting,” he noted.
The exciting feedback he received from the audience surprised him, especially after the success of another project about drugs, that he worked on eight months ago. In that photo session, he captured the loneliness and confusion drug addicts usually suffer from.
“I have a lot of ideas to start working on, but I have to plan for them first. I’d love to use my camera as a weapon for fighting all means of corruption in my society,” he concluded.