Arab students from other countries with greater internal conflict than Egypt—including, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine—face an even harsher reality if they return. But it’s not safe for them to stay in Sudan.
“I have lost three years of my life and I do not know what tomorrow holds for me,” said Saleh Hamed, a third-year engineering student from Gaza who is now at the International University of Africa, in Sudan.
Hamed says he has been living in harsh conditions during the protests. “We are having a hard time getting money transfers,” he said. “There was the sound of gunfire and the smell of gas bombs everywhere. Going out to buy food was dangerous. We spent days just eating bread and drinking water.”
Hamed calleed on the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Higher Education to find a solution for the future of Palestinian students, ensuring their safe return and enabling them to resume their studies in the same academic fields. But the Palestinian policy is the same as in Egypt, according to an official statement issued by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The statement said that the admission of students returning from Sudan would be “within the scope of the Ministry’s rules and regulations and university policies,” which implies that many of them cannot resume their studies, especially in the same disciplines.
In Jordan, a Possible Solution
Some experts say that not allowing students returning from Sudan to complete their studies in their country is logical. The university admission system in the majority of Arab countries is based chiefly on secondary school exit exam scores. Because the majority of the students went to Sudan because of their low grades and low university admission requirements, it is not fair to admit them today in disciplines they were not initially qualified for, some academics say.
“It is unfair to equate students at Egyptian universities who got high grades in high school exams with students with lower grades,” said Mohammed Kamal, an assistant professor of education at Kafrelsheikh University. “We recognize the difficulties our students face in Sudan, but the solution should not be at the expense of students in Egyptian universities.”
Kamal said the majority of students who are enrolled in Sudanese universities because of the low admission requirements are in medical and engineering colleges. For such students, the cost of living is $300 a month or less, he said.
But students believe that applying old admission rules to them today is unfair, especially if they have performed well and are about to graduate.
“This is injustice,” said Haitham Mehran, a third-year dentistry student at Neelain University. “The courses and textbooks are almost 90 percent the same in Egypt and Sudan, according to the Supreme Council of Universities.”
Although the number of Jordanian students studying in Sudan was only about 445 students, the Higher Education Council in Jordan is trying to help them complete their education. Jordanian students can be admitted to Jordanian colleges similar to the Sudanese ones that they were studying in on the condition that they pass an exam determining their level of education. Students will not be admitted to scientific colleges such as medicine and dentistry unless their grades on the secondary school exit exams were 80 percent or higher.
Mahmoud and Mehran hope that the Egyptian ministry will follow the example of its Jordanian counterpart and facilitate their admission to local universities without having to start from scratch. Hamed, from Gaza, is more pessimistic, especially given the difficulty of returning to his besieged country. “Thinking about future does not seem feasible,” he said. “The present as well as the future is not in our hands.”