The Azhar University board committee adjourned the resumption of the academic year from Feb 22nd to March 8th. This is the second such delay at Egypt’s biggest university. The resumption of university year across Egypt had already been delayed for weeks.
The health ministry asked for the postponement of studying at schools across the country due to the spread of the swine flu virus, which has taken the lives of tens of people in Egypt since the start of winter. The ministry, however, denied it was behind postponement at universities.
Observers believe the decision reflects the authorities’ fear of a rise in anti-regime student protests, especially at the Azhar University. Egypt’s oldest Islamic learning center has been the epicenter of a security and legal crackdown against the students’ movement in the country since the army overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi from presidency.
The university administration, which has consistently described its own protesting students as sponsors of violence, said the delay is aimed at repairing the damaged buildings destroyed by whom it calls terrorist Brotherhood elements. The military-backed government has vowed to proceed with the university year regardless of the sacrifices, so as to safeguard state pride.
Government supporters are aware of the dangers ahead. The Azhar students against the military crackdown have condemned the delay, vowing a new revolution will take place with the start of the second semester. Azhar and many other universities across Egypt looked like a battleground in the first semester, as Egyptians are holding their breath, wishing for a free and safe learning climate.