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Egyptian students stage sit-in front of parliament calling for elections, reforms

Students demand that postponed Students' Union elections go forward and new regulations give them more freedoms

Sarah Mourad, Wednesday 14 Mar 2012
Students
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At 9:00am Wednesday morning, hundreds of students from all over Egypt gathered in front of the People Assembly staging a sit-in requesting reform of students regulations and the staging of Students' Union elections postponed since November 2011.

The protest was called three days ago on social media networks, with organisers vowing to continue the sit-in until their demands are met.

Fady Abdel Hamid, a member of the technical committee of Zakazeek University’s Students' Union said: “In March 2011, a temporary Students' Union was established. It was only for an eight-month duration as new elections were supposed to take place in November. But they just kept postponing the elections, indefinitely.”

Abdel-Hamid reveals that they are facing now a serious problem as 50-60 per cent of Students' Union members were senior students who have graduated and are no longer active. Also, about 25 per cent of the entire university’s students are newcomers who neither can participate in the union, nor have any rights. “If the situation lasts longer, we will have more inactive students,” he added. 

The maximum time for postponing elections is eight weeks, though they have been postponed for almost four months for no apparent reason.

Maysara — a student in Al-Azhar University — says the regulations need to be changed in order to also give students more prerogatives. “We are almost not authorised to do anything. We have to go through very long procedures in order for the Students’ Union to be able to create any project.

“We do not even have any representatives on the college board. Legally, the Students’ Union mandate ended last November,” Maysara added. “We sometimes have to pay for certain events, since the college’s budget for the Students' Union is always insufficient. All this has to be changed,” he said.

Mahmoud Raafat, an engineering student in Banha University, revealed that reforms have been on the table since since March 2001, but the changes that were made were very slight and insignificant.

“The laws of electing Students' Unions, methods of electing the General Union of Egyptian Universities, all needs to be changed. We are also asking for allowing the participation of Students' Union presidents in parliament, as spokesmen of students,” he added.

At 2:30pm, it was said among protestors that the minister of hgher education, Hussein Khaled, was going to respond to protestors’ demands at a defined time. Nothing has happened yet, and so the students remain in protest.

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