Madonna Mamdouh Metry, last year student of Hispanic Philology at Ain Shams University. She was a beneficiary of the Learn Africa Scholarship Program in 2018/2019, thanks to which she studied at the University of La Rioja. She lives with her retired parents in Cairo, Egypt.
The situation in Egypt is at 65.188 Coronavirus cases (Africa CDC)
Egypt was one of the first countries to take measures in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Since March 12, schools and universities are still closed, and on that date partial confinement was declared. At present, churches, mosques and restaurants remain closed and only home delivery is possible.
Work goes on, either from home or in shifts. Half of the employees work for two weeks and the other half for another two. In addition, some services have switched to digital formats and the requirement to wear a mask outside homes continues.
With 23.2 students per classroom (according to 2017/18 statistics) in Egyptian schools, we were not very fortunate. The Ministry of Education elaborated plans with different phases to move towards digital education.
In the first phase, a tablet with material and Internet access was given to high school students. They took their end-of-year exams online using the tablets, except for the third year students who took them face-to-face last Sunday, with security measures in the exam centers. In addition to keeping the distance and washing hands, they were given free masks, gloves and plastic covers for their shoes.
In addition, the exams for access to higher education cannot be taken online because of the problems of equality and transparency that they entail.
It was also very difficult for primary and secondary school children (3 years) to attend their classes online because not everyone has access to Internet. In those courses, the final exam consisted in some practical work.
As for the universities, classes continued online until April 31st. In order to be able to evaluate the students, they have been asked to submit research papers. Not so for those in their final year of studies, where I am.
Let me tell you about the feelings of the graduating students. The final year is the most eagerly awaited by all the students. During the second semester, in spite of being very stressful because of the graduation work and the subjects we take, the most happy events take place: the end of year dance, the day we take the photos, the day of the lunch together and, especially, the graduation ceremony.
All this has changed dramatically. At the moment we are still studying at home not knowing until when. We were told that exams would be held on July 1st with all necessary precautions be taken. But the cases of contagion increased at the end of May, the hospitals are full and the government has increased the number of beds by incorporating the university hospitals.
They also converted the book fair halls into a field hospital with a capacity of 3,000 beds. The Ministry of Universities and Scientific Research offers every possibility of online exams, research work or, altertnatively, wait until the COVID-19 crisis is over. We are waiting for the decision. Meanwhile, in my Faculty of Philology we have handed in our graduation paper.
Although there are rumors to scare the Egyptians and spread negative feelings, Egypt continues with its development plan, with its big projects. The few times I have left home (to buy basic necessities) I find many new things out there. Everything changes. For example, I see new bridges and tunnels, new subway stations… Everyone works in shifts on a weekly basis or night and day.
The President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and the Ministers control the work processes and the precautionary measures on a daily basis. In July the government will distribute free masks to the entire population together with the monthly food aid.
The government also offered the minimum vital income to those affected by the crisis. There are campaigns on social networks to donate plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 under the supervision of the Ministry of Health, and research continues on the effectiveness of this treatment. Egypt is the first country in Africa and the Middle East and the ninth in the world in terms of scientific research on the coronavirus.
Of course we are very concerned about the crisis and we fear a second wave of the virus. But I think it is also time to grow from within, to get to know each other better, to take care of the family and to express love.
I wish everyone will come out of this crisis stronger on a human level, even if we are sad because of illness or the loss of a loved one.
It is a difficult time for women, but sure, we are stronger than we supposed.