Cairo students protest two-tier university system
University students protested in Egypt today demanding equal access to higher education. Anticapitalist Initiative supporter Tom W reports from central Cairo
Around 150 students gathered outside the Higher Education ministry in protest at Egypt’s two-tier university system. Under the system students who fail to reach the top grades in high school are admitted to university on distance learning-style ‘open’ programmes, restricting their access to resources and leading to a qualification which some say is worth less than a regular degree.
“We don’t feel like real students, we feel like visitors to the university,” said Doha Mohamed, a student in the Faculty of Agriculture at Cairo University. Doha said they were only allowed in to the university one day a week, on Friday, when most Egyptians are enjoying a day of rest.
Some of the protestors sat down in front of cars on Qasr al-Aini, a main thoroughfare, blocking traffic for a short time. Others wanted to confine the protest to a non-disruptive picket outside the ministry, and the latter group won out after some argument.
The protest organisers, No Maftoh (حمله لا للمفتوح), were keen to keep the protest and its message under control, and intervened to stop anticapitalists.org interviewing participants who were not official spokespeople.
There was a minimal police presence, with just a couple of officers whose main concern appeared to be keeping the traffic flowing.
Mustafa, a twenty-year-old law student at Cairo University, said: “We are here to demand our rights from the ministry of Higher Education. They ignore us. They say we can go to hell.
“We want to build our careers,” added Jasmine Desokey, a student at Cairo University’s Faculty of Arts.
The protest illustrates the rising expectations of middle class Egyptians after the revolution — expectations which Mohammed Morsi’s government will struggle to meet as it attempts to manage the country’s struggling economy amid the global economic crisis.
Since the election of Morsi, countless small demonstrations have taken place in Cairo and throughout Egypt on a daily basis. Less frequently there have also been strikes involving tens of thousands of workers and large demonstrations in Tahrir Square. Most of the protests are tolerated but there are regular crackdowns, such as last night’s attack on a small protest at the Syrian embassy in Cairo. That protest, of about 50 people, was met with tear gas and warning shots from the army. Striking workers in Suez have also been subject to police brutality in recent days.
Doha said she had participated in the January 25 revolution. Asked her views on newly elected president Mohammed Mursi, she said: “We have to give him his chance and support him.” But she said it was important to continue protesting.
“We’re still asking for our rights. The Egyptians must not give up. We’re not going to be silent any more.”