The Egyptian Student Union (ESU) handed draft bylaws this week to the minister of higher education without putting it to a referendum. Students say that the bylaws restrict their freedom to organise activities and they plan to protest for a fairer system. They also aim to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) majority in the ESU in the next elections.
Taha Heneish a student representative of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) said “the ESU made these bylaws and the minister for higher education approved them. This is not good because the laws were made behind closed doors without any input from the students.”
Student have fought for changes to be made to the 1979 state university governing bylaws for years on the basis that they restrict the students’ freedom to organise activities in universities. Heneish claims that despite the changes “the majority of the bylaws still restrict student activities.”
He also pointed out that there is one positive outcome from the new bylaws. He said “authority now lies with the ESU rather than the college administration which is a positive step.”
However the domination of the ESU by the MB is cause for concern. Heneish commented, “there are 20 seats on the ESU and 13 of them are occupied by the MB and unless they agree we do not have the freedom to organise anything. It is the students’ right and shouldn’t be restricted, ESU should coordinate activities, not restrict them.”
The ESU and the Ministry of Higher Education were not available for comment.
Heneish added that there will be a meeting on Monday with representatives from 27 different groups including ESDP, Al-Dostour party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Egyptian Current party and Al-Wasat party. They will discuss the situation and organise a protest, calling for more student input in the drafting of university bylaws.
Opinion polls were held last Wednesday and Thursday to gauge the views of the students about the draft laws. Heneish claimed the poll was a farce, stating, “[the polls] aim to know the opinion of students who aren’t even aware of the contents of the draft bylaws.”At that time the president of the ESU, Ahmed Omar pointed out, “the polls…are only advisory and not binding and neither are their results.”
Heneish also affirmed that in the next ESU elections “we will prevent the MB from dominating the ESU.” The elections are due to be held at the beginning of November, according to Haneish.