Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

For Yara’s sake

A week of sit-ins by students at the German University in Cairo following the death of a classmate ended after the victim’s father called on students to end their sit-in and resume their classes and exams in honour of his daughter, reports Reem Leila

For Yara’s sake
For Yara’s sake
Al-Ahram Weekly

On 9 March, 19-year-old Yara Tarek Negm was crushed between two buses at the German University in Cairo’s (GUC) campus. Negm had been looking at her mobile, unaware that a reversing bus was headed towards her.

The day after Negm’s death, the student union, along with hundreds of students, staged a sit-on, protesting against the lack of safety measures on university grounds.

The administration held several meetings with the university’s board of trustees and agreed to try to placate the students. After the meeting, which was attended by a representative of the Higher Ministry of Education, parents and members of the board, the university issued a statement promising parents and students to take all precautionary measures necessary to ensure the safety of students.

In a statement issued on 15 March, the university stressed the need for continuity in the educational process, including the taking of mid-term exams. The university called on students to return to their classes and take their exams to prevent disruption of the academic semester.

Bus transportation, according to the statement, returned to normal after three precautionary bus stops were added.

As an initial response to the growing protests, the university’s administration cancelled classes for three days of mourning for Negm, and to calm students down. It also announced the suspension of student activities for two weeks. The bus driver involved in the incident was referred to the general prosecution for questioning and was released pending investigation.

Khaled Hesham, a student at the GUC, pointed out there were previous accidents in which students were injured by the buses, including broken arms and legs. Hesham said he believed that negligence was the main cause of Negm’s death.

According to Hesham, the bus driver had twice been sent to the prosecution and that the university had not hired a lawyer to defend him.

“Apparently, it is likely that we will have appoint a lawyer for him. We collected money among ourselves to get him one. We don’t want the administration to sacrifice him and absolve itself of any blame,” said Hesham.

Students testified that it was not the driver’s fault and that he was driving the bus within his lane.

Students boycotted classes and lectures, demanding that the administration hold the parking and drivers departments accountable for the incident. “Most of us agreed that nobody will attend lectures, classes or sit for the exams in all the faculties,” said Sherwet Samir, a university student.

According to Samir, the percentage of students who did not sit their exams varied from one faculty to another. He said 50 per cent of students in the Faculty of Pharmacology skipped the exam on the first day of the protests, increasing to 65 per cent on the second day.

Those who boycotted exams in the Faculty of Engineering rose from 70 per cent on the first day to 90 per cent by the last day of the strike. “We told the administration that we will continue the sit-ins until they take action and meet our demands,” Samir said.

“We also demanded that the university change its parking system to something safer, as is the case with other universities,” added Samir.

The students demanded the questioning of the transportation department and called for campus safety and parking rules to be be improved, including setting up pavements in the garage area, and adding sensors to the buses so students are alerted when a bus is moving in reverse.

This is in addition to prohibiting buses from being driven on campus while students are walking back and forth from classes. Students also demanded an increase in the number of buses and drivers, as well as properly equipped ambulances to be made available at the university’s clinic.

According to Samir, it took the university’s ambulance around 15 minutes to get Negm to hospital, during which time she lost a lot of blood. “Unfortunately, the ambulance was not properly equipped with first aid equipment. The stretcher on which they placed her in the ambulance was not strong enough and students had to hold it to prevent Negm from falling off,” added Samir.

Negm’s funeral took place the day after her death. It had to wait for both her parents who were abroad at the time. A few days later, her father posted a message on Facebook thanking his daughter’s classmates for their support.

He also called on students to end their sit-in and resume their classes and exams in honour of his daughter.

The father attempted to calm angry students by telling them he will not relinquish the rights of his daughter and will make sure whoever is accountable will be punished.

“Be confident, I will not abandon my daughter’s rights. I am relatively satisfied that the prosecution is well aware of the exact circumstances of the incident,” said Negm’s father.

“I have already filed a lawsuit against the university and I understand the university will take all the necessary safety measures for other students.”

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