Law student Safaa Ahmed died during an exam in a garage without air conditioning and thousands of fellow students at Assiut University on Tuesday, the student union reported in a statement.
Ahmed died as a result of “severe fatigue” on the second day of Ramadan, in conditions that were described as “inhumane” by the student union.
Students say examination garages are covered with light iron ceilings, which absorb heat and make the temperature unbearable for large numbers of people. Student testimonies also indicate negligence, with some asserting invigilating professors did not act quickly enough and “watched her die slowly.”
It was a long time before a doctor arrived and gave Ahmed an anti-vomiting injection, students say. She was then transferred to a university hospital and died on the way.
“They thought you were acting while taking your last breath Safaa,” one student wrote in a testimony on Facebook.
These accusations have not yet been verified, but the student union demanded a full and swift investigation, to include testimonies from student eyewitnesses and a union representative.
Mohamed Salah, vice president of the student union, told Mada Masr that hosting exams in such ill-equipped environments has been a major problem, especially for students of law and commerce, due to the large number of students enrolled in these departments.
“One cohort in these faculties can include up to 6,000 students. We visited these garages before and demanded better examination venues for students, but we were consistently told our demands could not be practically met,” Salah said.
Dividing the students into groups to be examined in different halls simultaneously was one of the suggestions offered by the student union, but university administrators have no power to make such decisions, Salah explains, only professors and faculty deans.
“We demanded better conditions if exams are to be held in these garages. At least we can provide better ventilation and air conditioning, more fans and cold-water tanks. These demands were never met,” Salah explained.
Assiut University’s vice president for student affairs, Essam al-Zananty, was not available to comment to Mada Masr about the incident.
Salah speculated, “There is a level of laziness in our country, no one moves unless a catastrophe takes place. I believe the administration will now be more open to our suggestions.”