Egypt’s public universities started the academic year yesterday by forcing all students to salute the flag, in an effort to boost patriotism, according to Ahram Online.
The new tradition, which also involves singing the national anthem, was announced last Thursday by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar. It was implemented in universities across the country, with university officials, professors, military representatives and students inaugurating the ritual.
Abdel Ghaffar explained the reason behind the practice, as a desire to increase a sense of national pride to the 2.5 million Egyptians returning to higher education.
“This is not the only activity to raise the sense of belonging to Egypt among the students, because there are many plans for religious, cultural, artistic and political activities, as well as field trips to visit the country’s national projects.”
All student unions and political societies have been banned by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government since 2015. Abdel Ghaffar hinted that that would remain the case on Saturday stating: “There will be no space for partisan work at the universities.”
Earlier this month, the Supreme Council of Universities, a statutory agency responsible for higher education, announced that it would be increasing accommodation fees for students living on campuses, adding to the financial pressure on Egyptian families.
The increase saw the price more than double, from 165 Egyptian pounds ($9.3) to 350 Egyptian pounds per month ($19.82), and prompted fierce criticism from university students and lecturers, some of whom accused the government of violating the constitution which enshrines free education as a right.
Such measures are only one of many the government is implementing as part of an economic reform programme in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), aimed at raising subsidies on energy and goods and imposing more taxes, with the aim of providing revenue to fill the worsening fiscal deficit.