CAIRO—To the dismay of students and professors, Gaber Nassar, president of the Cairo University, has announced that the university will donate 20 million Egyptian pounds ($2.79 million) to a new fund that the country’s new president has set up.
Nassar and the university’s council were in meeting on Monday, June 30, when they announced the generous contribution to the fund that president Abdel Fattah El Sisi had started and named the “Long Live Egypt Fund.” The president says he donated half his income and possessions to the fund.
Cairo University’s announcement, however, was brief and did not specify where exactly the donation will come from. Cairo University has long suffered budget shortages that have prevented them from increasing professors’ salaries and responding to other calls for development. Attempts by Al-Fanar Media to contact the university president or his office were unsuccessful.
One faculty member who was interviewed praised the university for doing its civic duty, but many students and faculty members criticized the donation.
“This is not the council’s own money to donate, this is the university’s fund,” said Dina Radwan, a student of mass communication at Cairo University. “The university is in dire need of such a huge amount to develop its pedagogical systems.”
Rehab Ismail, a third-year mass communication student, was surprised to hear the university has a surplus of 20 million Egyptian pounds “appearing out of nowhere” to donate, because Nassar had announced earlier on television that the institutions is facing a significant budget deficit.
The university’s official website only stated the amount and intention of donation and no further announcements on how this contribution will be funded were made.
And while students like Radwan wondered exactly where the money came from, many students argued that this sum could have been used to resolve the many issues they face everyday the university.
“As a student, I should be able to benefit from those 20 million, if they are, in fact, in surplus. The quality of our books is bad, the curriculum needs to develop, they need to provide us with more courses, practical training and internships,” said Ismail. “Many classrooms have been closed off for improvements and those who aren’t are not well-equipped at all.” She adds that they face daily problems with the quality of technology and the lack of maintenance.
Similarly, Mostafa Ben Mahmoud, a mechanical engineering student in his last year, describes the decision as “foolish and unacceptable.”
“What educational institute donates this kind of money? This money is the university’s capital fund and should be directed towards scientific research and developing the university,” said Mahmoud. “If those funds exist, and I doubt that, they should be directed towards developing the laboratories on campus as they are in very bad condition and students can’t observe or practice hands-on what they are studying.”
The response among students was overwhelmingly negative but some faculty members viewed it as a positive step to contribute to the society.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Iman Gomaa, a professor of mass communication at the university. “The cooperation between the university and the society is a part of its responsibility and pedagogic role. We need it, it’s good for our image.”
But while professors like Gomaa supported the decision, others argued the money should have gone towards improving salaries and the overall situation at the university.
“The decision, to me, is not understood. Spending on education is very low and the university suffers a shortage in its resources that is reflected in how it performs its educational and research roles,” said Emad Abou Ghazi, professor of Arabic documents at the faculty of arts. “Any surplus in the university budget should go towards developing the educational process and scientific research. The university’s president and council who approved this decision need to be questioned and held accountable for this.”