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A Moving Letter from Egypt About the Role of Children in Tahrir Square Did You Know There Was a Pop-Up Kindergarten in Tahrir Square?

Here is a heartwarming, earnest, and gripping account of the role of children in the Egyptian revolution, sent to GOOD by one of the protesters.


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Editor's note: This story of children in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution has a back story we want to share. We saw a photo of kids painting in Tahrir from the BBC with this caption:

"Schools in Cairo have been closed during the protests. But there are so many mothers who want to attend the demonstration that many bring their children here - to a kindergarten organised by the demonstrators."

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Since we couldn't find more information on this online we asked a few protesters who were actively tweeting if they would send us details. Here is a heartwarming, earnest, and surprisingly gripping account of the uplifting role of children in Tahrir Square during three weeks of revolution. It was sent to GOOD by Mosa'ab Elshamy (@mosaaberizing) a pharmacy student in Egypt.

I'm not exactly sure when the kindergarten idea started, but I'd say it became most prominent when the situation in Tahrir got less tense, which was from the second Friday. The first one, January 28, in which people marched from every district in Cairo to Tahrir, was a violent and bloody one. Police used every possible means of suppression from tear gas to live ammunition. Very few families stayed in Tahrir then as it wasn't safe.

The place was mostly occupied by young men but, still, a few women were present there. The second Friday, the 4th of February, was a festive one. It was after the tense situation in Tahrir cooled for a bit, and the army had finally stepped into the picture, offering protection and keeping the thugs away. The mood stayed like that throughout the week until the decisive Friday, February 11, when Mubarak stepped down and jubilation ensued.

Some of the kids would do their own marches around the square, with people applauding and smiling at them.

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So, from this second Friday, the 4th, till a week later, Tahrir was one of the happiest places on earth. The spirits were wonderful throughout, and more people started believing in us. Tahrir was much safer, the thugs' attacks had stopped. Many factors allowed families to come to Tahrir then. A lot of them would usually come early, spend the day chanting, singing, and enjoying the general mood, then leave before the curfew hours started. There were a few families that stayed, though, and that sparked the idea to create a kindergarten in Tahrir Square.


I would say, like the BBC suggested, that many brought their kids out of fear of leaving them alone. I personally met an Alexandrian family on one of the very first days of the revolution. They had come all the way from Alexandria—quite distant from Cairo—and their child was barely two-years-old. I had to ask the mother why would she come along, and weren't they afraid for the kid? But her answer was that she just couldn't stay at home. That her husband came and she had to join him along with their toddler. So that's one reason why families were in Tahrir. But not the only reason. Even the kids knew what was happening in Tahrir and wanted to join in the festivities. They didn't want to miss something like that.

Even the kids knew what was happening in Tahrir and wanted to join in the festivities. They didn't want to miss something like that.

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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.

Except for the street vendors which set their spots and sold food or telephone recharge cards, almost everything in Tahrir was free. New supplies arrived in the square on a daily basis like blankets, medical aids, and tents. They were being given to everyone in need. So, yes, to answer your question, the kindergarten was obviously free of charge just like everything else.

Regards,
Mosa'ab Elshamy

Mosa'ab Elshamy is a pharmacy student and photographer. His Twitter bio reads "I revolted and overthrew a dictator."

Images: (cc) of children in Tahrir Square by Flickr user YasminMoll.

Articles

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Politics

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health