Dar al-Iftaa al-Masriya issued a fatwa last week prohibiting corporal punishment at schools, saying the phenomenon conflicts with the teachings of Islam and damages the educational process.
"According to sharia [law], abuse of all forms is banned," the text of the fatwa said. "The Prophet, peace be upon him, is our first teacher and he was never known to have hit a child."
The fatwa called on teachers to follow the lead of Prophet Mohammed in his stance towards education and guidance.
"The truth is, school beatings these days have been stripped of any educational value and have instead become a way for excessive corporal punishment and sometimes used for revenge and this, without doubt, is forbidden," according to the fatwa.
Since the beginning of the school year in Egypt, several news reports were released regarding schoolchildren being the victims of various types of physical violence that ranges from hitting to flogging and head shaving.
Ramez Yahya, professor of sharia law at Al-Azhar University, told Al-Shorfa he agrees with the fatwa.
"Neither reason nor Islam can sanction hitting schoolchildren," he said. "Children, according to Islamic teaching, are 'minors' and thus cannot be punished."
When children make mistakes, they should be corrected using educational discipline that involves counselling and instilling good habits, such as the love of knowledge and learning, he said.
Dr. Samira Lami, who teaches educational psychology at Ain Shams University, said hitting children is a crime punishable by law because it causes significant damage.
This phenomenon can "cripple a child's learning and creative abilities and transform [him or her] into a mere device that records and repeats information without understanding what is happening around [him or her]," she said. "Children who are hit at school, especially in a repeated manner, will become hostile towards school and teachers and will also suffer from a range of psychological illnesses such as aggressive behaviour, the stunting of their creative and learning abilities and a lack of self-esteem."
According to Lami, the best modern methods of disciplining children involve dialogue and incentives.
"For example, [teachers can offer] sweets to bright children who excel at a certain activity to motivate other lower-performing children to be creative, or [they can punish] children by depriving them of something or of a certain activity they like," she said.
Article 96 of Egypt's Child Law, issued in 2008, stipulates that a person who uses violence or abuse against children at an educational institution should receive a prison sentence of at least six months.
Dealing with this phenomenon must also involve reforming teaching conditions, according to Dr. Bassema Hosni, a sociology professor at Cairo University.
"Teachers' tough economic circumstances could push them to hit their students" because of the psychological pressure and indifference these circumstances foster, she said, "which is why we must fix the teachers' basic circumstances so we can arrive at a healthy and ideal educational atmosphere".
Families are also addressing the phenomenon.
Adel Jaber, father to two schoolchildren, formed a special committee with a group of other parents to monitor the issue at the school his children attend.
"The original idea was that a teacher would become a second father and the school a second home [for the children], but if conditions at this second home resemble terrorism – because of student beatings -- then this becomes a very dangerous situation we must confront," he said.
The committee is currently holding discussions with school administration and faculty members to prevent this phenomenon, Jaber said.
The school's administration and the parents agreed to conduct daily follow-ups to discuss student shortcomings or failures so the teacher does not lose his or her temper and react inappropriately, he said.
"We also agreed to contract a sociologist" so we can refer misbehaving or difficult students to him or her "so we can better understand [these children's] aggressive behaviour," Jaber said.