My application at Cairo University (part II)

This is the second part in a series of articles about applying at Cairo University. You’ll find part one here.

Note: I will try to keep the rest of this ‘never-ending’ story a bit shorter, so you won’t get tired of me complaining about Egypt’s great education system.

As I wrote in my previous post, all I needed to wait for was my stamped Diploma Supplement, and then everything would turn out alright. So I was still being a little bit optimistic. I asked the Egyptian Embassy if they could send it to the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC), so it would be safe, fast and cheap. After more than two weeks of waiting, I got impatient and called the Egyptian Embassy. “Yes? Jacob Stoop? Yes I still remember your documents. No, I already sent them two weeks ago. Yes, I’m sure…” It should have been delivered to the NVIC by now.

After these two phone calls, I could only think of this Dutch song (I’m still working on an Arabic translation, will be posted here, of course)…

Because I was sure that the Dutch Mail, PostNL, lost my envelope, I arranged for a new one to be send to Cairo. This would take some time, but there would still be a chance, however small, that I could finish my application. In the mean time, someone from the Netherlands-Flemish Institute contacted the dean of the faculty, in order to get me extra time. The dean wasn’t being very helpful, at all. After explaining the whole situation, she just said: “He is way too late with his application. There’s no way he will be able to study at our faculty this year. Tell him to come back next year.”

Right now, the missing envelope has finally arrived (I assume it has been at the Dutch Embassy for two weeks). (My embassy hasn’t been able or willing to help me at all during this period. They have a few ‘sacred’ rules, and always going by the book is one of them.)  The extra envelope was delivered by DHL this morning. The problem of the stamps has been solved, but I’m afraid it’s already too late. If even the dean of the faculty says it’s not going to happen this year, I don’t know who will be able to help me.

Tomorrow I’m going to the university’s Supreme Council to beg for this very important document called “the equation.” If they say it will take at least a few weeks, as the dean told me, I will tell them “Thanks, but no thanks.” and move on with my life.

This is the second part in a series of articles about applying at Cairo University. You’ll find part one here.

My application at Cairo University: a never-ending story (part I)

This is the first part in an endless series of articles about applying at Cairo University.

I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my application for a Master’s degree at Cairo University since I started the whole process, but I wanted to wait until I was accepted so I could write a complete story, instead of one with an open end. However, right now it seems like this application procedure will never end, so I decided to just start writing and see how this mess develops. What follows is a story about bureaucracy, procedures, two envelopes, naivety and bad luck. And maybe, just maybe, a happy end.

Back in May, after thinking long and hard about it all, I concluded that I might as well stay in Egypt and apply for a Master’s degree in Political Science at Cairo University. Some people told me I was stupid, others encouraged me to just try and see where it gets me. I embraced the latter ones, and went to the Student Affairs department for some information. They gave me a list of documents that I need to bring with me in order to apply, and told me to come back later. (Probably the other way around, as the first thing a university employee does when asked about anything, is saying: “Come back tomorrow.”)

After two months of working and saving for the tuition fees (GBP 2400, or the equivalent in Euros or US Dollars, in addition to the ‘normal’ Egyptian fees), I arrived in Cairo during Ramadan, at the beginning of August. Here’s when the naivety part comes in. Although many people had warned me of the non-productiveness of anyone, let alone university employees, during Ramadan, I thought someone would be able and willing to help me. I was wrong. The only department that was ‘working’, was the Supreme Council of Universities, which compares foreign degrees to the Egyptian education system in order to decide if the student is allowed to study at a certain faculty.

This mu3adla, or equation, appeared to be the most important step in the whole procedure, as people at the Student Affairs department kept telling me (which sounds logical, because they are not the ones involved in this step). After a few days, I had enough information to be able to upload the requested documents on the internet and pay by credit card.

I went back to the university, all optimistic because the application was relatively easy until now, to make sure my documents were received properly. Unfortunately, mister Shadi told me that I also had to hand in the original documents: “Of course, uploading copies of the original documents is not enough. Oh, and one more thing: the original copy of your degree certificate won’t be returned, so maybe it’s better to give us a legalized copy of the original.” There was also just one problem with my transcript of records: it lacked a stamp from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has offices all over Cairo especially for this purpose: stamping documents. Early in the morning I went to the office at Ahmed Orabi Street in Mohandiseen. The queue wasn’t that long, so after almost two hours it was my turn. Every single person before me, 191 in total, didn’t have a problem in getting his or her document stamped. They probably came prepared. My document, however, was not ready to be processed by the ministry because, as I could have known, it should be stamped by the Egyptian Embassy in the Netherlands first.

Of course, that poses no problem for me at all. I just call the embassy, tell them I’m going to send them a document, and that they have to send it back to me after stamping it. Only cost me LE 350 (plus EUR 35 for the stamp), but a Master’s degree at CU requires some sacrifices. The embassy received my precious mail, processed it, and sent it back. Now I only had to wait until my mail arrived…

This is the first part in an endless series of articles about applying at Cairo University.

“Hulanda mish mazboot”

In recent weeks, Egyptian media have for the second time in a period of only a few months created some rumors about Dutch government policies regarding asylum for Copts. About two months ago, Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) published an article stating that the Netherlands would welcome any Copts applying for asylum in Holland. The report was completely baseless and false. It is true that a Dutch Member of Parliament, namely Joel Voordewind (member of the ChristianUnion, a small party currently holding five seats in the 150-seat parliament), asked the minister to review his policies with respect to Coptic asylum seekers. The minister replied that the current policy is sufficient, and would not be changed.

The Al-Masry Al-Youm article created quite a stir online, and the Netherlands Embassy in Cairo was flooded with requests for asylum. Even the academic Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo was contacted numerous times a day for more information about government policies. Because of this, the embassy came out with a statement (July 16, 2012), saying that nothing had changed:

“Every request for asylum by Egyptian Christians will be assessed on its own merits as is the case for any asylum seeker in the Netherlands. It remains up to each Egyptian Christian individually to demonstrate that he/she is in need of international protection. This has always been the Dutch asylum policy towards Egyptian Christians. Nothing has changed in this respect.”

When I was in Dahab for a short vacation, last week, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabi’a (The Seventh Day) published a similar story (September 5, 2012) as the AMAY article, but this time an official letter from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a certain Mr. Ebid was included. The letter should provide evidence for the assumption that Dutch immigration policy regarding Copts has changed and that it’s now “granting Copts asylum”, as the title reads. In the letter, dated August 28, 2012, the ministry replies to an email sent by Mr. Ebid.

According to Mr. Ebid, the embassy statement of July 16 is not in line with a letter from the Dutch Minister of Immigration, Integration and Asylum, Gerd Leers, sent to Dutch Parliament on July 11, 2012. This letter was the only substantiation for the AMAY article. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs admits that the clarification published by the embassy on July 16 does not mention the fact that the government’s policy was updated on one point: Egyptian Copts do not have to request the Egyptian government for protection before applying for asylum in the Netherlands. This is just a minor change, and it certainly does not mean that asylum will be granted to any Copt requesting asylum.

To avoid any misunderstandings and to pre-empt a flood of requests, the embassy published a second statement on September 9, 2012, again denying the reports. It states the following:

“Every request for asylum by Egyptian Christians will be assessed on its own merit as is the case for any asylum seeker in the Netherlands. It remains up to each Egyptian Christian individually to demonstrate that he/she is in need of international protection. This has always been the Dutch asylum policy for all asylum seekers including Egyptian Christians.”

About the change in policy it states:

“The change in the procedure as it applies to Egyptian Christians was decided upon on July 11, 2012 by the Netherlands Minister of Immigration, Asylum and Integration and entails the following: in case an individual Egyptian Christian asylum seeker can make a plausible case that there is a real risk of a breach of article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms or that he/she is persecuted as described in the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention, he/she does not need to demonstrate that he/she asked the Egyptian authorities for protection.”

Unfortunately, this statement did not reach every Egyptian somehow interested in the matter. As I wrote above, all this happened when I was in Dahab enjoying the really nice weather and the beach. When I arrived back in Cairo on Friday night, I took a taxi from Tahrir square to my apartment in Doqqi. The cab driver asked the usual questions, and by the time we were close to my destination, he asked me where I was from. I said: “Hulanda”, and before I could tell him that I wanted to get out because I had reached my destination, he started to get angry with me, and said “Hulanda mish mazboot” (Egyptian for “Holland isn’t good”). He didn’t want to let me get out of the car, and kept on driving. According to him, the Netherlands were welcoming Copts in their country, and that’s why he was mad at me. I’m not sure why he didn’t like the idea that a lot of Copts want to leave Egypt, because I assume he doesn’t want them to stay either. After a few minutes, he stopped the car and let me out while saying “Welcome to Hulanda”. At least he took his revenge…