Saturday,24 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1265, (8 - 14 October 2015)
Saturday,24 February, 2018
Issue 1265, (8 - 14 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Universities under control

Al-Azhar University is taking intense precautionary measures to guarantee a peaceful year, reports Reem Leila

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Al-Ahram Weekly

With the beginning of the academic year, university campuses, which were nearly empty for three months, are readying to receive thousands of students.

Last year was a difficult one for several universities, led by Al-Azhar. Twenty students were killed in clashes with security forces. Hundreds of students were also arrested and many more suspended from their faculties.

On 3 October this year, the first day of the new academic year, there was a heavy presence of security forces outside Al-Azhar University, including armoured vehicles.

This was in addition to personnel from the Falcon Security Company, in charge of securing the university from the inside as well as monitoring students and their activities. Falcon is also in charge of preventing non-students from entering the campus.

University President Abdel-Hai Azab conducted a tour of the university’s campuses to inspect security measures, see university property and meet with students and employees. During the tour, Azab told the press that the university’s hostels are provided by the government for students who deserve to stay at the university’s dormitory.

“Any student who stages a riot or participates in a riot will be kicked out of the hostel. If any student throws stones at any of the university’s properties or staff members, I will chop his hand off,” Azab said.

He also checked the university’s gates and electronic devices that check students as they enter university premises. Azab has banned mineral water bottles, spray and perfumes so as not to be used in riots.

“I warn all students against the participation in any riot or acts of violence. There will be no mercy for any student, employee or staff member who is found to be involved in any violent act, riot, incitement against the university or the government. They will be immediately terminated from university,” Azab said.

On the first day of the academic year, Mustafa Shehata, deputy security chief of Cairo directorate, along with security personnel, inspected special security forces inside and outside the university.

“There are at least four armoured vehicles of the armed forces surrounding the university from the outside so as to guarantee students’ safety and to prevent riots,” said Shehata.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Coup Alliance called on Al-Azhar University students to march to the university to support their classmates against what they described as “aggression of police forces on the university.” The alliance issued a statement encouraging students to demonstrate at the university and to hold several marches at Nasr City to “continue their struggle” against what they described as “coup forces.”

“Gather and demonstrate against the country’s governorates and join the revolutionary movement in Cairo which will start acting at the beginning of January,” a statement from the alliance said, adding, “People will demonstrate against military coup forces.”

Gaber Nassar, president of Cairo University, last week issued a controversial decision banning female staff members wearing the face veil, or niqab, from teaching. According to the decision, “academic staff members and their assistants in all faculties are banned from teaching in theoretical or practical classes or to attend laboratories or practical training while wearing the niqab.”

 Nassar said the decision was taken “for the sake of general welfare” and is meant to ease communication with students and improve the educational process. “The decision will not be applied to subjects that do not require student-staff communication,” Nassar said.

“There are only ten teachers who wear the niqab, out of about 22,000 teachers in 24 faculties,” he added.

The university had received reports from some deans regarding the difficulty of communicating with students and professors who wear the niqab, particularly in language courses.

Nassar said he believes that the ban aims to enhance the quality of communication and, consequently, education. “The ban is restricted to lectures. Professors are still allowed to wear their niqab on campus,” he said.

The movement Students Against the Coup (SAC) condemned the decision. SAC posted on its Facebook page that banning the niqab is a sign of the “secularisation” of the university, which the group is opposed to, saying it had nothing to do with improving the quality of education.

Islam Mohamed, a member of SAC, said the decision goes against individual freedoms because it violates the constitution. “The decision is considered discrimination against a certain category of society. This is unacceptable and nonsense,” Mohamed said.

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