Egypt Pulse

Cairo sends university students to tour military industry

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Article Summary
University students are touring Egypt's military production facilities as part of a state program to educate the public and defend its image.

Egyptian university students are visiting military-owned companies and factories to learn about their projects and production processes.

The Every New Day initiative, a joint program by the Ministry of Military Production and the Ministry of Higher Education, started Sept. 27 in universities nationwide and will conclude in December. “This initiative will contribute to fostering values of patriotism and work ethics in young people,” said Minister of State for Military Production Mohamed Saeed el-Assar. “It will also significantly contribute to raising awareness among a whole generation of young people about the resources and capabilities of their country, as well as what the state's various institutions are doing to enhance societal development,” Assar said in a statement published on the ministry's website.

So far, seven delegations of students from universities including Ain Shams, Menoufia, Damietta, Suez, Port Said, Cairo and Helwan have paid visits to various military factories and training centers. Visits to military factories are scheduled for every Wednesday until Dec. 27.

Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said in the same statement published on the ministry's website that the program “seeks to involve the youth in the state's development plans and teach them about achievements on the ground.”

“That will ... foster values of belonging and patriotism,” Abdel Ghaffar concluded.

The Egyptian military is often criticized for its alleged inability to manufacture its own equipment and weapons and for importing most of what it needs from other countries. The Every New Day initiative hopes to address such accusations and prove to young generations that such ideas are groundless, according to the government.

“The idea is excellent. It's very important that the state institutions listen to the accusations leveled against them and address them,” said Asmaa Hanafy, a sophomore in Ain Shams University's pharmacy school. Hanafy added that the initiative provides firsthand information about military projects and production.

Egypt's military industry is considered the largest and most significant among the Arab countries. Egypt used to receive $1.3 billion in military aid from the United States and about $200 million in economic assistance annually. Citing human rights violations, the United States decided in August to deny Egypt $95.7 million in aid and delay a further $195 million.

Tarek Nour El-Deen, an assistant to the former minister of education, said university students should not only gain knowledge from books, social media and TV. “They should see things to verify the information they receive,” he told Al-Monitor. Deen added that the initiative also builds communication and understanding between young people and the Egyptian military institutions.

“Such a bridge of communication is really significant because many young people have questions about the military and its national projects that are not usually answered,” he added.

Kamal Mogheith, a researcher at the government-run National Council for Education Research and Development, also praised the initiative, saying it gives practical experience to university students — a key part of the educational process. While the education minister believes the initiative could help counter anti-military sentiments that students are exposed to, Mogheith cautioned that could have the opposite effect. It may have been a better idea for the students to tour the several national projects in which Egypt's armed forces are participating, including the Suez Canal Development Project, road and bridge networks, the Golden Triangle economic zone and the new administrative capital, among others.

“Some people may [think] the military is trying to militarize the minds of young people and gain their support. That is why it would have been better if the initiative included visits to projects carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and so on,” he told Al-Monitor.

Found in: egyptian society, military, military aid, universities, egyptian youth, egyptian military

Menna A. Farouk is an Egyptian journalist who has been writing about social, political and cultural issues in Egypt since 2013. She is an editor at The Egyptian Gazette newspaper. Farouk has covered stories about the unrest that followed the January 2011 revolution, press freedom, immigration and religious reforms. On Twitter: @MennaFarouk91

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