Egypt Independent

AUC students and workers launch strike against soaring fees and wage cuts

About two thousand students and workers at the American University in Cairo (AUC) began an open-ended strike Sunday in protest at the recent hike in tuition fees and continuing low salaries, amid silence from the university's administration.

Protesting students stormed classrooms at the new AUC campus in New Cairo, urging all students to unite and ask for their rights, chanting, "Get out," and, "Why are you silent? Aren't you a student like us?"

They then marched around the campus and stood in front of the administration building that houses the office of AUC President Lisa Anderson, chanting: "Lisa, where did our parents' money go?"

The protest started in the early morning when students refused to pay the usual ten pounds to park their cars inside the university's campus, an action intended as a protest against rising fees. Students and university staff then hung banners on the walls of the university listing their demands.

Among their concerns is a nine percent increase in tuition fees for Egyptian students, pushing up the annual cost per student to more than LE120,000. Meanwhile, academic services are deteriorating, according to a statement released by the striking students on Sunday.

"We demand a ceiling on the increase in fees in the coming years so that the increase is only applied on new students," said Youssef Mohamed, a mechanical engineering junior and strike organizer.

Students are also complaining of limits on the numbers of faculty staff, which means many students are not able to gain places on the more popular courses, said Nada Badawi, a journalism student joining the strike.

Students also suffer from a lack of representation in the administration's decision-making process.

"We are asking for a genuine student representation in administration meetings. We need to be present whenever decisions that directly affect us are being taken, and to fully understand the reasons behind them and give our opinion," said Mohamed.

According to Mohamed, the student's extra-curricular activities were monitored by the State Security Investigations Service (SSIS) during the era of ousted President Hosni Mubarak; and he says the monitoring continues even after the uprising that removed Mubarak from office.

Meanwhile, hundreds of security personnel and maintenance workers joined the students through Sunday, protesting the reduction in their salaries and demanding better working conditions.

"Workers are being treated as slaves, and they don't get decent salaries in return," added Mohamed.

About 70 workers have been employed by the university for years without contracts, which means they don't have health insurance or any work benefits. Many of them work more than 12 hours per day.

As of Sunday night, around 100 strikers had decided to remain on the AUC campus, continuing their strike until their demands have been met. Meanwhile, some students at the German University in Cairo have begun calling for strike action of their own, issuing statements via Facebook.

The AUC administration has yet to offer any public response to the strike action.