The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Egypt’s unrest hits home for NE student

By shelly williams/editor-in-chief

A teacher in Egypt once told him that he should quit school.

But now, in the wake of Egypt’s revolution, NE student Melad Hanna wants to start a revolution of his own. Hanna wants to teach the teachers when he returns to his family.

Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square in Cairo after longtime president Hosni Mubarak stepped down Feb. 11. NE Campus student Melad Hanna, who came to America three and a half years ago, watched the recent protests closely with his mind still on his family who remain in Egypt.
Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times/MCT

On Feb. 11, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his reign of 30 years after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets. Egypt’s citizens are seeking a democratic government, and Hanna is also affected by this revolution.

“I like Egypt so much, but corrupt government, corrupt people, they treat Egypt like hell,” Hanna said. “There’s no jobs, and there’s a lot of big discrimination between Muslims and Coptics [Egyptian Christians].”

NE geology professor Clair Ossian has visited Egypt several times during the past 30 years and often gives seminars on campus about the country. He said at first the poverty he saw in Egypt was quiet and interesting, but as time passed, it became clear people were “severely suffering.”

“They say the average person there is working for $2 a day, but they’re barely surviving at that rate,” he said. “The biggest problem over there, too, is that it’s easy to get education all the way through graduate school, but then there are no jobs.

“So there is a very large group of highly educated people, who are extraordinarily dissatisfied. This had to happen sooner or later.”

Ossian said the question now is what Egypt actually has.

“Egypt has been the go-between for Israel and the rest of them [Arab countries], so this will be very valuable for the entire Middle East and, of course, for us too,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of money in Egypt and, in turn, Egypt is the one who has negotiated treaties. For all its faults, it’s been a very strong supporter for America. But now that Egypt’s up for grabs — is it better? I don’t know because there is no leader.”

But for Hanna, the education system was part of the problem as well. It’s the main reason he came to the U.S. three and half years ago. He’s a Coptic, the brother of four other siblings and the son of two proud parents. His family is still in Dafash, Egypt, and he is just a year and a half shy of obtaining his American citizenship.

But to come to the U.S., he had to fail out of college. If he didn’t, he said he would have been forced to join the Egyptian military instead. He described the immigration process as playing the lottery, having family members who applied to come to the U.S. 10 years ago and then being accepted on his first application. He gave up everything he had there, sabotaging his future in Egypt.

“I’d have to go to school, attend the classes, and I’d know how to answer the questions, but I’d have to just leave the paper blank to fail the classes,” he said.

That wasn’t the first time Egypt’s policies and education system gave Hanna or his family issues. Aside from being kicked out of a computer science class several times for minor errors, Hanna said he remembers a moment that pushed him toward his current goal.

“I’ve seen horrible stuff in schools,” he said.

Hanna said after he answered a question incorrectly, his Arabic teacher laughed at him in public and once told him to quit school, buy some chickens or sheep and play with them. Hanna said he was only nervous because he was called out in front of class.

“He described me as deadbeat … that I shouldn’t come here anymore,” Hanna said. “I hate him. Well, I don’t hate him. I hate the way he — From this moment, I decided to challenge him. I studied harder, harder and harder in this class.”

Two weeks later, Hanna faced an exam and received the highest grade in the class. The teacher accused him of cheating.

“I said, ‘It’s OK.’ I didn’t pay attention to him,” he said. “In class, they care for mostly smart people. And the less smart people, they put him down more.”

He also remembered a time his family religion affected his brother’s future after college.

“My brother is very smart. He’s the smartest student, the smartest boy I’ve ever seen in this world,” he said. “He went to a company to apply, and the manager asked him what his name was. He said, ‘My name is Emmanuel.’ That’s a Christian name, and he told him, ‘No, go back and change your name and pray … then come back and apply.’ That means like go change your religion and come back to apply for job.”

His brother threw the job application in the trash and walked out, he said.

Hanna originally sought to simply earn money and return home to help support his family.

He didn’t expect to return to college when he came over, but working the night shift at a local gas station wasn’t enough for him.

A language barrier made studying almost impossible at the beginning of his college career. Taking English as a Second Language as one of his first courses helped him make A’s in the others.

“When I came here, I knew the education would be hard for me,” he said. “But I see it’s very different here. The teachers are very helpful. My first class was psychology. I didn’t understand what she said, but I’d go home, and I’d have a dictionary and start studying — like 10 hours a day. Some chapters take like five or six hours to translate.”

Hanna said he hasn’t made below a B in any of his courses, and when he returns to Egypt, he wants to wants to contribute in the revolutionary change by trying to fix the education system. But he is unsure how far Egypt’s revolution will go.

“I don’t think Egypt will advance anymore, even after this … There’s still corrupt people. Not all the people, just their beliefs,” he said. “Like our constitutions, the second article says we should take our laws from the Islamic religion, but you have the Coptics.

“Most people refuse to make Egypt a civil country, not a religious country. If religions get control of the constitution, it’s not going to be good, and they will not let Egypt be civilistic. But if they let me teach in the schools, I’m going to teach the teachers how they should teach — as I saw here.”

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian