Friday, August 30, 2019

Egypt’s scientists are angry : Egyptian academia got something to say for real

“#Egypt’s_Scientists_are_angry” is A hashtag that has been top trending for days now in Egypt especially among Egyptian public university professors and academics for days now on social media networks.

It is mainly active on Facebook and Twitter in Arabic.
Why are Egypt’s scientists aka academia and university staff angry?

Because they are simply demanding better salaries and pensions to help them in their living in Egypt nowadays.
This is the short version.
Cairo University's famous hall
Cairo University's famous hall in Giza 
The longer version got more details that make you understand why they have to be so angry and even will make you wonder why they were not angry before.
The University staff across Egypt are demanding the following in their campaign according to one of the biggest groups dedicated to “Egypt’s Scientists are angry” movement on Facebook “Over 57 thousand members” :
  • Fair salaries as well as increase in salary to coup with the floating of the Egyptian pound, the cancellation of subsidies like fuel subsidies and soaring prices.
  • Providing University staff and their families with proper health care and health insurance. 
  • To have a pension that is equal at least 80% of the last salary.
  • To legalize the situation of teaching assistants.
  • To increase the budget of scientific research gradually and to have a budget for devices and chemicals, in addition, the University would pay the cost of publishing research papers internationally.
  • To amend the current law regulating universities with a just system for increasing salaries and pensions with a known percentage.
  • To restructure and to filter the current curriculums and courses so they will coup the demands of the age we live in. 
The Group made it clear that its admins are against any calls for strikes in the movement.
The demand to raise the salaries and the pensions of the University staff is the main one in the movement and one can understand it knowing the economic conditions in Egypt recently.

According to what I have read in this group’s posts like this one, the first salary for teaching assistant in Egyptian public universities ranges between LE 2500-LE 2900 “USD 151 to 176” per month while the university professor’s salary is LE 8000 “ USD 485”.

There are 24 public universities in Egypt currently with 122,577 members of staff according to official numbers

Another thing I understood from that group is that the salaries are based upon the law to regulate universities of 1972 which has not been amended until now.

From what I understand the salaries system in Egyptian public universities has not changed for decades and that in 2012 the system began to be “restructured” in order to “enhance the University bonuses” but this restructure did not continue.

How did I know about this group? Through my old university professor. We are friends on Facebook and he keeps sharing the posts from the group.

As usual Pro-regime news websites like Youm7 did not waste any time and said that the hashtag was made by the Muslim Brotherhood to smear the country and spread lies ..etc. to the end of the usual accusations associated with any news that bears any criticism to the government.
Ironically the President of Cairo University himself admitted that the demands of the academic staff in his university are legit.

In a statement published by Al-Wafd Newspaper on Wednesday, Dr. Mohamed El-Khosht said he would increase the financial resources for academic staff as well as to provide them with an extra income through an increase in the scientific research and academic international paper publishing’s bonuses and rewards.

The demand to increase the public university staff is not new, already in January the university staff began screaming about their salaries but it seems that it was not enough.

Aside from the fact that the admins in one of the campaign’s biggest Facebook groups made it clear that there is no place for political posts in the group, I see a direct call for President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to help the academia in this campaign online.

On Thursday “Egypt’s_scientists_are_angry_Mr._President” hashtag in Arabic was top trending in Egypt.

Whether it was launched by the Muslim Brotherhood or not, Egypt’s academia has complained too long that salaries are too low for decades now.
It is a well-known fact the low salaries drive Egyptian scientists, scholars and academia to immigrate since the 1960s and 1970s in addition to the lake of freedom of expression.

It was the favorite theme for Egyptian melodrama in the 1980s and 1990s  that girl that chose garbage trader over her long-time lover poor professor. “Yes, exaggeration is another theme in Egyptian cinema”

By the way, Egyptian mainstream media ignores the campaign completely and yet this did not stop it from continuing.
It is not a big secret that the current Egyptian administration invests billions in huge mega-national projects including infrastructure.
There is no use for a new mega-metropolis project when there is no enough investment in higher education and scientific research.
Education is the true key for Egypt’s true development and it needs freedom of expression and proper funding.

Now the new academic year in Egyptian Universities will kick off on 21st September 2019. It is unclear if the University staff will escalate their anger from the virtual world to the real world if their demands are not met.
Time will tell.

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