After so many years, I’m back at Cairo University. I studied there from the year 2000 to 2004, which makes me almost 10 years older than most of the faces I see walking around the campus. This didn’t prevent some unfortunate souls to try and harass me, they should thank God that I only gave them the cold reply, and tried silently to smash their heads with my bare fists.
Anyway, back to my normal tone, I felt pretty nostalgic walking around campus, though I usually stayed near Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences most of the time. It’s pretty much the same. The buildings didn’t change much, few alterations here and there, some wall graffiti for the revolution, a couple of new buildings. There were much more cafeterias, which I don’t know if this is a good sign, as the students need something to eat and drink, or if it was a bad sign cause it shows that people go there to socialize more than to grab a bite to eat between lectures. But what astonished me really, was the unbelievable activity of the commercial educational centers selling summaries, written lectures, Q&A,,,, etc! When I was still a student, there were large numbers of such centers on the other side of Faculty of Commerce door, they just bought notes from some students to sell it to those who would rather hang out then get suffocated in the ill-ventilated lecture hall. But now they go much more advanced in regards to selling techniques, you’ll find some standing outside of the campus walls screaming with a microphone with some advertisement for the notes, thousands of flyers across campus, and Baya3een Shanta Salesmen with the backpack!
This is understandable for the Law school, or Commerce Faculty, as the numbers of students is counted by thousands each year, and there is no chance that a sane student would be able to attend attentively all lectures. But to find these printouts for the Open Education Center, that’s ridiculous!
I will talk about my experience with the Open Education Center (El Ta3leem el maftou7) at some other time, but one thing I find it remarkable if having a well maintained website. Using your username and password, you can download lectures (video, 3gp for your mobile, written, summarized), old exams (some of them solved), the book on pdf, final revisions on video. It’s really nice to have your study materials as a soft copy, ma3aleina ba2a of the quality. So what these centers do is simply print out the materials already available for every student with a different header and footer and selling them for profit! Unbelievable!
One thing I discovered is that Cairo University has a distinct smell. When I first entered from the gate, I instantly felt I was on a time machine, and it was thanks to the aroma of the place. I really can’t describe it, it’s a mixture of the smoke of fast food kiosks, the cheap essence of the low-middle class girls, mixed with the general sweat of students who spend the whole day there, plus hints of the occasional shoes “varnish”.
I don’t want to sound pessimistic about Cairo University, I do my best to hide this, but I don’t know how the future of education in Egypt will improve with the current situation. Cairo University was built by enlightened minds who sought elevating the level of education and knowledge of the Egyptian people, many great names contributed in these efforts. They will be happy to know the numbers of students per year, but not so if they talked to any of them. That is not to say that there is no hope. Some amazing professors were still able to surpass these circumstances and provide their students with top-notch curriculum, but at the end, what is their percentage?
And when we talk about hope for Cairo University, I dare say that the best schools are Faculty of Law (English section), Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, and Faculty of Commerce (English section). At least this was how it used to be in the year 2000. I will tell you about my visit to FEPS, one of the remaining good spots for governmental education. I won’t talk about the educational part itself as I didn’t have the chance to check it, or the proper expertise to judge it, but I will talk about primitive things that any woman will notice from the first glace. Mostly the cleanliness, general atmosphere and little specifics. I was greeted first with the unpleasant bombardment of announcements on A4 paper at the entrance, which definitely ruined the look of the place. Aren’t results, notifications, and that sort of messages supposed to be posted all in one place? And not thrown like this randomly?
Then I decided to go find a place to pray inside, cause I still remember the powerful smell of the women section of the nearby mosque, and would not like to repeat the experience. First I went to the lavatory for my woudou`, the place was ok, decently cleaned. But there was not a single drop of soap or a single tissue. I wonder if the Dean or the professors used the public lavatories, will it be the same quality?
Then I asked a girl if there was a prayer place for girls, as I remember we used to occupy any unused room and tell each other on prayer times, but she pointed at a corner dedicated for girls. It was a corner below the staircase in the new building, hidden with a big wooden board, with a couple of prayers rugs, and a poster talking about the proper form of Hijab. There was some cigarettes butts thrown on the ground, most probably were thrown from someone climbing the stairs on a hurry (despite the no smoking signs), there were a couple of discarded books on what looks like an old night stand. And the ground was purely filthy. I had second thoughts on where to put my bag, or where to take off my shoes for that matter. By comparison, I wouldn’t have any problem praying on the asphalt, at least the dust will be much more sanitary…
I wonder if this was the difference of 10 years since I was a student there, how was it 10 years before I go there? And how will it look 10 years from now?