For a group of Grade 10 students at Durham Christian High School, the reality of the struggle for democracy in the Arab world became strikingly real when a guest speaker recounted her experience in Cairo during the revolution to oust former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Shannon Marcus is a former French teacher at the Bowmanville school who left for Egypt a number of years ago to pursue a career at an international school in Cairo.
When citizens flooded into Tahrir Square demanding Mubarak’s resignation, Marcus and her fellow teachers were evacuated to a resort before heading home to await the revolution’s outcome.
She offered to tell her story to students in Fred Spoelstra’s Grade 10 civics class and a Grade 12 history class.
“My personal safety was never a huge issue in this, but there were days when I was scared,” Marcus told Spoelstra’s class during the presentation.
“Jan. 28 was a scary day, because both cell phones and Internet went off without any warning. Living alone and being cut off are not nice things.”
Spoelstra says the experience offered his students a unique opportunity to hear about the struggle for democracy, and how truly lucky they are to live in a country with guaranteed rights and freedoms.
“It created a really interesting discussion on the difficult move to democracy…what we so easily take for granted,” says Spoelstra.
He says Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms is regularly discussed in class, and it’s an important protector of civil and human rights in Canada that many people, not only high schools students, take for granted far too easily.
“The things that we so readily take for granted, which are not extended to most of the peoples of the world in the same way — her presentation just created a whole new level of awareness,” says Spoelstra.
Marcus has since returned to Egypt to resume teaching and as far as Spoelstra knows, she is doing very well.
The school’s website states: “Egypt has many challenging days ahead, and will need your prayer and support. Please pray for the peace and safety of the Egyptian people as they struggle for their freedoms.”