By Marina Makary
On the sixth day of student strikes at the German University in Cairo (GUC), students have announced they will be boycotting midterm examinations due to their demands not being met.
Following the death of Yara Tarek after a bus ran her over on campus, the GUC Student Union (SU) announced a sit-in on campus, which remains ongoing.
“Classes resumed normally the day after the accident took place,” said Mohamed Mourad, the SU’s media director. “The university announced a state of mourning only after the strike began and buses from the funeral had arrived back to the campus.”
Associate Chair for Presentation and Communication at the American University in Cairo (AUC) SU, Omnia Farrag, echoed Mourad’s opinion: “There is absolutely no consideration or respect for the demands of neither the students nor the parents.”
Farrag added that this is the third accident to take place in the GUC parking area, but the only one that received media attention, as it was the first to result in a death.
The AUC SU, along with six other unions and several student movements, announced their solidarity with the GUC student union and condemned the incident and the university’s response.
“They [GUC] increase the tuition fees, yet their service gets worse,” Farrag complained.
According to a statement released by GUC’s SU Saturday, which happens to be the first day of the midterm exams, 85.5% of the students did not attend the midterms to “show their objection against the university’s system”.
The statement also added that parents were allowed into the university campus and met with Mahmoud Hashem, the GUC’s Manager, and their demands were refused. The management said that the “academic life would move on” without any change in the university’s system or procedures. The parents requested to meet the founder of GUC and the university’s President, but their request was denied.
On Friday, the university locked the gates on students inside the campus during the sit-in, and prevented both students and parents from entering the campus. Mourad said this “subjected the parents and students to danger, since the police was present and they could have been detained under the Protest Law”.
After the administration’s statement, which claimed that it had “done its part” and claims the bus driver is accountable for the accident, the SU called for an initiative to appoint a lawyer for the bus driver, after learning that he stood in front of the prosecution twice without a lawyer. Mourad confirmed that “the fault is in the system of the university itself, not the bus driver”.
Mourad told Daily News Egypt that professors and teaching assistants are standing in solidarity with the students, and were willing to participate in the sit-ins. However, they feared retaliation from the university’s administration would harm them.
Omar Fathy, a Mechatronics senior at GUC, chose to attend his midterm exams. Nevertheless, he believes the administration’s reaction “was not enough”.
“None of us are accepting the university’s way of dealing with the accident, and although boycotting the exams may be a means of pressure on the administration, it is not the solution,” he said. Fathy was understanding of the aims of the strike, yet expressed dismay at the noise the students caused during the examination timings.
“We stated a clear apology on Saturday for the students who suffered during the exams,” Mourad clarified.
The list of demands that the SU has made includes questioning the entire transportation department and changing the campus’ security and parking system, and that sidewalks are built for students to walk on and wait for the buses. The students have also demanded that bus departures while students are on the ground are prevented, and that well-equipped ambulances be available in the campus clinic.