If there is one prominent feature that defines the Egyptian education system, this would be its systemization: the same curricula have stood the test of time, remaining largely unchanged for 50 years. Last Saturday, rising stand-up comedian Akram Hosni – better known as Said Abou-Hafeeza, the news anchor of Moga TV’s widely popular fictional news show “The 25th Hour News – revived this bizarre experience for Sawy Culture Center’s audiences with his sold-out “educational show.
Hosni’s quirky sketches were penned by Haitham Daboor, the young author of the recent hit book “Awal Mokarrar (Valedictorian Number 2) who’s constantly confused with Ahmed Mekky’s famous film character.
Against a simple, plain stage set, Hosni kicked off the show with a bang, demanding the packed audience stand up, salute the Egyptian flag and sing the national anthem, to which the audience succumbs instantly. For a moment, the attendees appear to be emotionally traumatized by the memory of their school days, attempting to turn their minds away from any possible flashbacks.
The show was designed to take the students, (audience) through a regular school day administered by Hosni, starting from the compulsory flag salute, followed by a few classes, recess then some more classes.
Dabbour’s book is perfect material for stand-up comedy. Like a dozen or so similar popular releases, the book offers a long stream of truly funny vignettes that strike at the core of every aspect of the education system, pointing to its ills and absurdities, albeit from the surface.
With a voiceover announcing the Melody Music motto “All English all za time, the day starts with an Arabic class. The literary criticism lesson sees Hosni presenting a famous modern poem entitled “El-set lamma… (When the woman…) to his students. For the entire duration of the class, Hosni, plays both a bohemian poet and a microbus driver, aimlessly meandering in search of an inconsequential conclusion.
Hosni is such a successful performer that a straightforward recital of the “poem was enough to elicit cheers of approval generally associated with classic diva Om Kulthoum, shouting “azama ala azama ya set.
Before each class, a voiceover summarized the content hilariously. For example, before the social studies class, the audience is told that “what is taken by force can only be restored by… and then former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat s voice is heard saying, “a trip to the end of the world, the Israeli Knesset itself.
From chemistry to biology classes, to a break where the loudspeakers beamed voices of children playing, the show fully immersed the audience in the school experience. At a later stage, Hosni touched upon some details of college life, mocking the way college buddies change when they are involved in a new romantic relationship and the catastrophic aftermath of the break-up.
Through scribbles in the ladies’ restrooms, Hosni exposes the biggest secret since Bibo dumped Gigi (an allusion to a popular TV ad): Egyptian girls’ obsession with Tamer Hosni’s chest hair.
Though witty and entertaining, the performance left audiences looking back with sadness at the “educational experience most Egyptians must suffer through.
A spontaneous interjection by one viewer summarized the sorry state of the system: “Study and you ll pass, but cheat and you ll get high grades, to which Hosni candidly responded by admitting that “unfortunately this is the truth, but we can’t be teaching our children that.