Ahmed Sokarno Abdel-Hafiz
2014 / 4 / 12
University students in Egypt have rights and duties. They are entitled to a number of rights. These rights are granted under strict conditions which must be observed by all members of university community. Students are duty bound to respect the rights of others, otherwise they may lose their own rights. The questions that keep popping up are: (a) What are the rights of students? (b) What are their duties? (c) Why have Egyptian universities become war zones? (d) How can we deal with the problem of violence in our universities?
Needless to say, university students enjoy many rights. They are entitled to quality education. They can opt for the type of education they would like to pursue. They should be treated with due respect. The facilities of university should be in good condition and they should be accessible to all students. Students can practice whatever sports they like and can form their own elected body. All university employees exert themselves to provide assistance to students.
However, Students must understand that these rights are not absolute-;- they are more likely to lose them if the rights of other people are not respected. Students should be keen to preserve their scientific integrity. For example, an attempt to cheat in the exams is an unfortunate step that can lead to dismissal from university. Moreover, students are expected to refrain from instigating violence on campus. The destruction of university facilities is a punishable offence. Making noise on campus is definitely considered a major infringement of the other students rights. Students setting cars on fire are violating the rights of other people. Any attempt to impinge upon the rights of other students may result in severe penalties in accordance with university law number 49.
Egyptian universities nowadays have become war zones where students and non-students gather to commit atrocities against university community. Students keep defying and resisting university security personnel and attacking police with Molotov bombs and shotguns. In return, the police would respond with shotguns and gas bombs. A lot of students as well as policemen have fallen victim to violence and fighting. Furthermore, such violence and disturbances have occasionally resulted in the disruption of classes. No universities around the world have been subject to such dramatic events. The question that goes through one s mind is: Why?
The problem with Egyptian universities is that the campus space is small in proportion to the size of students. The Azhar University, for example, has a student body of 322809. Cairo University of which the space is 320 feddans (1.344 km), has 146425 students. Ain Shams University has 134030 students. Alexandria University has 124782 students. Almansoura University has a student body of 88698. Helwan University has 70413 students. All these universities have had violent demonstrations and protests in which shot-guns and Molotov-cocktails were used. In contrast, universities in which the size of students is small have undergone little violence. These universities include South Valley University with a student body of 27345, Sohag University, which has 23204 students, Port Said University with 11835 students, Aswan University (7372 students), and Suez Canal University, which has the smallest student body (7252).
To appreciate the disproportionate ratio between student body and space in Egyptian universities, we need to look into the situation of some US universities. No US university has more than 60000 students. Arizona State University, which is spread across four campuses, has a student body of 55552. Similarly, the State University of Florida has 55000 students-;- these students are distributed over 12 campuses. The University of Minnesota has campuses in two cities: Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The University of Stanford has a floor area of 33 kilometers but it has 15000 students. Duke University has a floor space of 34 kilometers, but it has 13000 students. These universities, which have a small number of students, have seldom been in a state of anarchy.
The best way to avoid disturbances in our universities is to reduce the number of students enrolled every year. One way to do so is to divide the large universities into several campuses´-or-to simply turn them into separate universities. Cairo university, for instance, can be divided into two´-or-three autonomous universities: Cairo University i, Cairo University ii, and Cairo University iii, with each university having no more than 50000 students. Such divisions of a university are not unusual in world universities. The University of Paris, which started as one university in the 12th century, has been divided into thirteen universities. This procedure can definitely resolve the security issues and -restore- tranquility to our large universities.