Ugandan Students Stranded in Egypt Call For Help

Thursday, March 3, 2011
By ugandansabroad

By Arao Ameny

NEW YORK (Ugandans Abroad) — Ugandan students relying on non-government scholarships are stuck in Egypt.  Only students with government sponsorship are being evacuated from Egypt, according to Charles Kitonsa, the Ministry of Education spokesperson.
As a result, students with scholarships from the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council have been left to fend for themselves, facing an uncertain situation with nowhere to turn but each other — and a Ugandan cultural organization.The Uganda Students’ Association at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, was started in 1985 to foster a sense of community for Ugandan students living and studying at the university.
During the unrest in Egypt, the organization has become a haven for students, a place to encourage each other and talk about their experiences.

While other countries have evacuated their nationals, Ugandan students on non-governmental scholarships are still waiting to be evacuated.

More importantly, the organization and its members have mobilized to appeal to the government for help. The students have written letters to the Ugandan government to help them evacuate Egypt, and are still waiting for a response.

Students who have already been evacuated from Egypt were Ugandan students who were studying under government scholarship from the Ministry of Education and Sports.  Other students on non-governmental scholarships haven’t been so lucky.

Idi Musa Kinene has been studying at Al-Azhar University for over two years, and currently serves as the Secretary General of the Uganda Students’ Association.

Kinene says that he is appealing for any student whose education was also sponsored by non-government scholarships, and will continue to ask the government and the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council for assistance.With the growing security concerns, he is concerned about the welfare of fellow Ugandan students.  Al-Azhar University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Egypt, is closed and students have to remain indoors in their rooms all day.  Kinene said that classes are cancelled because teachers are absent.He is unsure why classes haven’t resumed, saying that the university may be closed because teachers are protesting, or maybe because the university is now overseen by the government.

“We as students ’til now– we have not gone back for second term, maybe because our lecturers are among the demonstrators, or because our university is under government,” Kinene said.  “It’s now  three weeks ever since we had to report back but we are still home [in our rooms],” he added.

Kinene said that before they came to Egypt, he and fellow students had never experienced anything like the current situation before– such as massive protests, demonstrations, labor protests and acts of civil disobedience.

Al Azhar, the university where Ugandan students study abroad in Cairo.

Clashes between protesters and Mubarak’s supporters also took a violent turn, resulting in horrifying acts against Egyptian citizens, as well other residents in the country.

Kinene said Ugandan students continue to live in fear because they have been attacked in their homes.“Some of our fellow Ugandan students were attacked at their homes with rioters holding sticks, pangas and machetes,” Kinene said.He said that they were not injured, but their phones and money were stolen.  Kinene said that the whole ordeal has been harsh, and that things are slowly getting back to normal.

Ugandan students who came under the Muslim Supreme Council scholarship scheme have not yet been evacuated and are very afraid of the instability.  “We are still under fear because we don’t know what is coming next,” he said.

Kinene said that the government evacuated students with government sponsorship from neighboring universities, Alexandria University and Cairo University, but the other students were left behind.  32 students from Alexandria and Cairo University were evacuated on Kenya Airways, he said.

Most other countries had evacuated their students and citizens, frustrating Kinene.  He said that even Ugandan officials have been evacuated, but Al-Azhar University students are still in Egypt.

“Should we have to die first before we are recognized as students?” said Kinene.The students sponsored by the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council scholarship scheme contacted the Ugandan mission in Cairo for assistance, but the embassy referred them back to the council.Kinene said that the embassy also sent students letters advising them to steer clear of situations that would adversely affect them.

“We read the letters after Jumu’ah prayers [Friday prayers] on the fourth of February,” he said.  After the protests erupted, Kinene said that students had no choice but to stay indoors, with no access to communicate to their family and loved-ones in Uganda.

Idi Kinene, in the full brown suit, stands with the other Ugandan students in Egypt. They are still waiting to be evacuated, and fear for their security.

“The internet had been off and we could not talk to our dear ones,” he said.

Kinene said he was frustrated when news reports claimed they were safe, when in fact security continued to be a major concern.

Abdul Wahid Namuguzi, the chairman of the Uganda Students’ Association, wrote a letter to the Mufti of Uganda, the highest Islamic religious leader in the country, to ask for assistance.
The letter outlined the problems the students face in Egypt on a daily basis.
“We have expressed our problems to the officials, which we want them to solve as soon as possible,” said Kinene.  ”We are still waiting for their reply any time.”

Kinene, a devout Sunni Muslim, thanks only Allah or God, for helping the students to remain motivated and not succumb to worry.  “As per now we thank neither the Supreme Council nor The Ministry of Education, but Allah who has saved us from this worrying situation,” he told Ugandans Abroad.

He says the banks were closed and students couldn’t even access their money.  However, they have complete faith and trust in Allah, and continue to appeal for assistance.Kinene believes that the protests rose from the demands of Egyptian citizens on the government, and little to do with religion.  The demonstrations began on Jan. 25 and reached a turning point in the country’s history when former President Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11.Most of the country’s services are back to normal, such as access to the internet, phones, transportation, banks and health services.After the country’s transition to government-control, Ugandan students have not experienced ill treatment, despite some ideas harbored by a few citizens.  Kinene said that like in any country, there are some Egyptians that believe immigrants take away jobs from nationals.  However, he says that  there has been no targeted mistreatment of Ugandan students, saying that they deal with each problem accordingly as it comes.

He said that all people, regardless of faith, ought to ban together to move forward. “I think all parties should come up and fight for one cause, irrespective of religion, although the majority are Muslims here,” he said.

Kinene continues to appeal to any one who is listening to assist Ugandan students stuck in Egypt. “We are calling up on those concerned to help us now as we don’t know what to do,” he said. “This might be a turning point so that we may no be affected by any situation in future and the education will be successful, Inshallah [“God willing” in Arabic].”

To date, Kinene and fellow Ugandan students at Al Azhar University still have gotten the same message from the Ugandan government that only students under its own scholarship will be evacuated.

To make matters worse, the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council told the students’ parents that were safe “yet they never knew anything here in Egypt,” he said.  The Ugandan Students’ Association stepped up to fill that void as the only support structure Ugandan students have at the university.
“The association managed to bring together and update Ugandan students to be cool in every situation,” he said.

Kinene and fellow students in the diaspora have been eyewitnesses to history, experiencing first-hand the transition from Mubarak’s rule to government control in a matter of weeks.

He said that from what he sees, Egyptians have been happy after Mubarak stepped down.  He said that they feel that they finally have the freedom to express themselves.“All Egyptians are happy because for thirty years, they have not been expressing their freedom, and now they have the right to talk and show their feelings,” he said. “For me, I think all people under oppression should be brave and get rid of those oppressing them and taking them off their freedom.”Kinene said that the Uganda Students’ Association continues to serve its members because it is “like the mother of [the] students,” and can’t stop working, regardless of what happens.

The association’s main priority is working with the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council to have the Ugandan government register the students under the government’s protection so that they too can be helped.
In the meantime, Kinene and other students will remain in Cairo, waiting to be evacuated.  They meet to support each other, and will soon hold elections for the association’s 2011- 2012 school year.
“We shall do whatever it costs for us to be under government,” he said.  ”So that in case of any other problem, we can be helped and not left apart.”
If interested in supporting the Ugandan students stuck in Egypt, please contact Ugandans Abroad at Ugandansabroad@gmail.com.
Arao Ameny is a New York-based journalist for Ugandans Abroad.  She is interested in Ugandan cultural identities, Lango and other Ugandan languages, and women’s rights.
Bookmark and Share

If you find this information helpful, please

to Ugandans Abroad.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Blogplay
  • blogmarks
  • FriendFeed
  • Global Grind
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Tumblr
  • Yahoo! Buzz

Related posts:

  1. Ugandan Identity Abroad: A Balancing Act Ugandan-American journalist Arao Ameny begins this three-part series on Ugandan...
  2. What Does the Partition of Southern Sudan Mean Regionally? Writer Ian Kavuma discusses the regional implications of the partition...
  3. Strike Shuts Down Makerere University Students found themselves in the midst of a campus-wide strike...
  4. Celebrate Independence Day with Focus on Women– How Far Have Ugandan Women Gone Since 1962? This year, a special independence day celebration in New York...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Responses to “Ugandan Students Stranded in Egypt Call For Help”

  1. thanks for throwing out our voices

    #33547
  2. Please keep updating us on your situation. Our prayers and thoughts are with you, and we pray for your safety.

    #33568
  3. amigo

    We appreciate ur concern. I am one of the stranded students.
    Thanks

    #33908
  4. Is there a way I can contact you? Thanks, UA

    #33998
  5. u can call mi on +20125808342

    #34541
  6. This is so wonderful and Mr Kinene Idi we thank you for the great responsibility that you took during the demostration period! Well though studies for non Arab countries has been not resumed yet! we hope by the end of this march we resume studies! Yours Mulindwa Ramadhan +20196399030
    faculty of Islamic Law
    General Senior Advisor,Uganda Students’ Association In Egypt

    #34794
  7. thanx very mach Mr kinene

    #42277
  8. Tanvir

    Askum

    It is my dream to read in this glorious university. I live in Bangladesh . I want to read here and want to grow my knowledge more about Islam and with the Perfect way.

    Is there option for any free scholarship for an abroad student?

    Regards
    TANVIR

    #44894
  9. its ok i think the is an egyptia embacy there in you country becoz we stady with some poeaple caming from there go and ask for they will riplys u saccesflly insha _allah thnx very mach

    #51180

Leave a Reply