Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CXXXIV. My Education – (10 of 13)

My university years

Those of us who studied at the University of Cairo in the mid-’50s did so in a beautiful setting.

The university was situated in Giza, having as neighbors the famous Cairo Zoo, and at a further distance the Pyramids. It gets better; for when it was built, a large road divided the Orman Garden (a botanical garden) in two parts: a large tract of land in the south was set aside for the Zoo, and the rest was occupied by the campus. Thus the university inherited greenhouses, flower gardens, and a great variety of trees.

Alas, on my return visit in 1996, I realized that the whole thing has become a concrete jungle. The Zoo – a much impoverished Zoo at that – was all that was left from what was once a fertile and green section of Cairo.

Before I go any further, let me mention that university studies in Egypt back then were totally free. The only expenses my father incurred were for books.

My university years are specially remembered by the wonderful friends I made. This was my first chance to be immersed in a near total Egyptian milieu. At my two private schools, the young people I met were largely of foreign descent.

The Egyptian brothers (for that is how they called you, and how you were expected to call them) I made at the university were unlike any friends I had before or after. If I may be allowed to generalize, I would describe the typical Egyptian brother as warm and genuinely caring, in other words, a real brother. Nobody can feel isolated for long amidst such companions. If you have a problem, like it or not, you are expected to share it with them. They may not always be able to solve it for you, but at least you know you have their full support.

And let us not forget the sisters. The university, of course, was coed with a smaller number of female students. In those days, while they dressed modestly (in accordance with the dictates of the Holy Koran which enjoins both genders to not dress in an alluring way), they wore no hijab (it hasn’t been invented in its present form). Your dealings with female students required some decorum. You watched your language and you didn’t flirt; but otherwise, the atmosphere between the sexes was quite relaxed. Romance did on occasion bloom; however, the next step was to go out on dates with a chaperon. This may or may not be followed by a formal engagement.

I will always remember my first week of university. I was totally lost. Two friends from Le Lycée had also been admitted to the Faculty of Pharmacy. The three of us were trying to adapt to this new and strange world.

We saw a succession of professors delivering their lectures, advising us of the name of the books we had to buy, and then leaving without further ado. The amphitheater was huge and was filled to capacity. Thus the professor could never hope to individually know each student, nor could he take questions. To make matters worse, there were no teacher assistants (going for their master or Ph.D) as now exists in Canadian universities. However, there were lab. assistants; their role was to help us out while we were conducting the required experiments. We could, and did, ask them questions related to theory, but they were laboring under time constraints, and ultimately the help extended was limited. Put in plain English, it was a sink or swim situation. And the three of us mostly sank!

As previously mentioned, passing or failing depended on one exam in June, and a second chance in September. In total you were given four chances. The exam was made up of two parts: written and lab. work, with your average being your final mark. You needed 60% to pass, a very high percentage considering how demanding this whole program was.

The studies were all conducted in English. This did not inconvenience me, since by then I had a good command of that language.

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