CAIRO: University professors held a protest at Cairo University Thursday afternoon, as part of their campaign for better pay.
Professors accused the government of “smearing their image in a statement handed out at the protest.
“We have witnessed an escalation of the campaign to smear the image of university teaching staff carried out by the Minister of Education and his advisors. [University professors] are presented as not committed to their work, and are being held responsible for the collapse of university education, the prime responsibility for which lies with officials who jealously guard their seats of power without giving any thought to, or working towards the country’s best interests.
Professors say in the statement that the smear campaign is aimed at diverting attention from the real reasons for the deterioration of universities.
Ali Barakat, a professor in Alexandria University’s faculty of engineering, told Daily News Egypt that staff numbers within his faculty have declined drastically because of pay levels.
“I’m a professor, and I’m 60 years old, but I earn the highest possible salary which is LE 3,600. A new graduate gets at least 80 percent of my salary in his first appointment, Barakat said.
“Normally we used to get the top of the class appointed to universities. Now they run away.
“At the time that the [higher education] minister himself was a member [of Alexandria University’s faculty of engineering], there were 1,600 members of staff. Now there are 400. The number of staff is diminishing because of the bad situation and the number of students is rising. So we can’t talk about quality.
University professors roundly rejected a performance-related pay scheme introduced last year by the Supreme Council of Universities (SCU) which they allege is both divisive, and an unsatisfactory response to their demand for a comprehensive and across the board pay-scale overhaul.
“This protest is about what we have been demanding for the past two years. We need a proper salary raise, not incentive payments, and we also need a raise in the university budget, Cairo University professor Laila Soueif told Daily News Egypt.
“We want not just to be able to live, but to be able to do our work, and this cannot be done without a raise in the budget. So far all that the government has done with respect to our demands is to try to circumvent them.
“We’re preparing ourselves for another round of protests which we hope will either culminate in bigger protests or in the government actually listening this time, Soueif explained.
Earlier this week, on April 14, the Administrative Court ruled in favor of four university professors who raised a case seeking the abrogation of the SCU decree under which the performance-related pay scheme was introduced.
One of the arguments made by the four professors in their case was that the pay scheme puts in place illogical criteria to measure performance, such as the requirement that professors be present on campus 27 hours per week. “Real life conditions in university, and the nature of university professors’ intellectual activity makes this requirement unproductive and unnecessary, the statement reads.
The court accepted this argument, holding that the SCU decree disregards objective standards of performance-measurement, compromises equality between teaching staff and violates university independence.
“[The ruling] clearly states that the decree which sets out this whole thing ignores quality measures and made university members unequal. In so much as it did this, it has to be corrected. This is completely consistent with what we’re demanding; we’re demanding that salaries be raised across the board, Soueif explained.
“The government is selling the idea that there are people who are not doing their work so we won’t raise their salaries. If they’re not doing their work what are they being paid salaries for in the first place?
“If you’re not doing your work you should be disciplined. If you’re doing your work, you should receive a fair pay. If you do something exceptional then you get an incentive payment. It’s very simple. I don’t know why we have to reinvent the wheel.