Report on the Egyptian student movement

Thousands of Egyptian students have commemorated the country’s 66th national student day on Tuesday. The students demanded an end of military rule, release of detained students, to hold parliamentary elections before writing the constitution as well as justice for the martyrs of the revolution and the Port Said massacre. Students from over 15 Egyptian universities have joined the protests that were supported by the Revolutionary Socialist Student Movement, the 6th of April Student Movement as well as the Students for Justice and Equality.

The National Student Day is a commemoration of the Abbas Bridge massacre on 9 January 1946. On that day, hundreds of students joined a march in order to oppose the 1936 Egyptian-Anglo Treaty and the British military occupation of Egypt. As students crossed Abbas Bridge, they were attacked by British and Egyptian troops. When the army opened the moveable bridge, dozens of students drowned. The National Committee of Workers and Students, which brought together delegates from the universities and major workplaces, called for a general strike in response on 21February 1946, the day is since then commemorated as National Students Day. This year’s student protests included a march of about 1000 Cairo University students to the Egyptian parliament, passing the historic Abbas Bridge.

Since the overthrow of Mubarak, universities have been an important battleground. Several universities such as the American University of Cairo (AUC) and the German University of Cairo (GUC) are located at the outskirts of the capital; they are surrounded by fences and heavily protected by security police. Nevertheless, students have been an important element of the Egyptian revolution; many of them have joined the protests on Tahrir Square. However, as they returned to their campuses, students realised that the presidents of the universities, who were part of the Mubarak regime, have not been replaced. This has spread the revolutionary battles from Tahrir square to campuses across th country. Key questions concern the presence of police and the military on campus, the democratisation of the University as well as demands for socioeconomic equality. Students at Cairo University launched a campaign for the removal of university president Hossam Kamel, a representative of the old regime.  The privately owned German University of Cairo (GUC) never had a student union, students are now protesting for their right to representation.

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Even though the campuses are often geographically isolated from the cities, no doubt a conscious policy of the regime, the demands of students and workers have always been interlinked. Not only have the students been a key element of the Tahrir protests, they have also built strategic alliances with professors and staff on their campuses. Ain Shams university president Maged El-Deeb was forced to submit his resignation after university professors initiated a strike. During the opening of the academic year 2011/2012 at American University of Cairo (AUC), students and workers launched a strike in order to demand lower tuition fees as well as higher wages for campus workers. The students benefited from close networks with the university staff that have been built during campaigns preceding the revolution.

One of the highest points so far in student mobilisations was the February 11 strike, which saw protests of thousands of students across Egypt to demand an immediate end to military rule.  The spread of the revolutionary movement to campuses across the country illustrates that the revolution is far from being defeated; it has entered a new phase, challenging people in their daily environments.

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