Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Figaro Article

Having failed at school, rioters take to the schools to avenge themselves. A dozen primary schools burned during the weekend. Many parents helped teachers clean the premises.

by Cecilia Gabizon
08 November 2005

"They burned the school and it makes sense," provoked Tewfik, who spent 18 years in Grigny (Essonne) where the Sleeping Beauty Primary School was burned. "Everyone is sick of the hypocrisy: here, school is useless; all you have to do is look at us!" A friend of Tewpik's continues: "Ninety percent fail, 10 percent graduate and 100 percent are unemployed." Brahim adds "The whole system is undermined from below." They describe the hostile universe, cruel teachers, injustices and professional orientation equivalent to being "thrown in the trash can." Without diplomas and without employment, they prefer rancor over regrets.

These products of the educational system are they who took to these vulnerable primary schools, according to reports. One more fire for the record books, the assurance of garnering the media's attention without terrible consequences, they believe: "These primary schools will be rebuilt tomorrow. The state has money," a young man called Rabat claims.

This is a classic speech for this deliquent youth who "for 10 years has targeted institutions judged responsible for their situation," explains Hughes Lagrance, sociologist at the Observatory for Change (CNRS). The self-destructive delinquance of the 1980s, the main manifestation of which was theft, left in place an urban guerilla war, led by youth failing out of the scholastic system. From one generation to the next, one struggles to understand the situation. Thirty-somethings observe fearfully "these kids who have no respect."

"Go after the cops"

Saturday night and early Sunday morning, after the fire in 5 classrooms of Sleeping Beauty Primary School in Grigny II, the grown-ups of the city try one more time to intervene. "If you have a problem with Sarkozy, don't attack your neighbor's car or your cousin's school. Go after the cops," says Kamel, 30. Sunday, around 100 hooded young people confronted members of the police force with pump guns for hours, under the watchful eye of their neighbors. According to a local courier, Mady, 27, they were "attracted by something you don't see everyday."

Bothered by the prospect of commenting on the confrontation with the police, these residents preferred to denounce "those who go after their neighbor's cars or schools." "It's crazy," Ladji Douvouré says laconically. Ms Douvouré is a world-class athlete who grew up in the neighborhood. "Here, they take care of us with scholarships, with free books. It's not like how it is in Africa." A young mother says "it doesn't make sense to attack these schools where there aren't any French people. There are only we, children of immigrants."

Everyone tries to figure out a rationale that makes sense. "This primary school is in a far-off corner. The rioters were probably acting out of opportunism," Hélène Ouanas, a school inspector ventures.

Cleanining up the classrooms

Since the return to school in September, the students in the school had been busy decorating their classroom. "It was their school project, all their work has gone up in smoke," laments one mother, who showed up spontaneously to help clean on Sunday. Like her, dozens of people, men, youth, mothers wearing African garb or saris came out of their neighboring highrises to put order back into the carbonized rooms. Many families, however, chose to keep their children home Monday for fear that things would get worse. Said, a BAC +5 and security guard at BHV has three children at home. "It takes nothing for the shooting to start up again." Then, the next time you turn around the schools will be the target again of a few enraged individuals, indifferent to the hopes and successes of the neighborhood families.