Christmas sandwiched between exams

22-12-2015 05:28 PM

Coptic students in Egypt have long complained of being deprived of properly

celebrating Christmas because of end-of-term exams which usually fall during the

New Year/Christmas season. Coptic Christmas is celebrated on 7 January, and the

substantial number of Coptic students who study in Cairo or other major towns can

make no homecoming for Christmas. During the pre-Arab Spring Mubarak times,

an official decree made sure that no exams would be scheduled on Christian feast

days or on the days directly preceding or following them. This was a respite for

Coptic families, but it only applied to schools; the scheduling of university exams

were left to the discretion of college administration and faculty. It was thus

inevitable that, in case of hardline Muslim professors or administrative staff,

Coptic students would find it impossible to celebrate Christmas with their families

who live in the smaller towns or villages; it made no sense to travel far distances to

spend a mere few hours at home celebrating Christmas.

This year, 2016, promises to be no exception. After failing top persuade those in

charge of their colleges to keep the dates 6 and 8 January free of exams, a number

of Coptic students have sent a SOS to Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

A female student in Assiut University complained to Watani that she had exams

scheduled for 6 January, Christmas Eve. “This is a day I should be spending with

my family in Qena, some 200km south of Assiut. The 200km are not, strictly

speaking, the problem. I have to take other, more tedious, transport means to reach

my home village. The winter weather is not always stable and, as matters stand, I

will probably be spending only a few hours at home then heading back to prepare

for the exam on 8 January.”

According to a young man studying in Ismailiya’s Suez Canal University, the

journey to his hometown of Assiut covers some 500km, again almost impossible to

take for Christmas at home then back and ready for a new exam on 8 January. “We

are calling upon the government to put an end to our suffering, and allow us to

spend Christmas with our families,” he said. “No-one can deny the importance of

family ties, and it is our right to adhere to and promote familial bonds. Strong

family relations serve the integrity of the entire community.”

Watani International

22 December 2015

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