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Pandemic Casts a Shadow on Extracurricular Activities for Egyptian Students

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“Student activity depends on live direct contact and the physical presence of the participants,” said Mohammed Gomaa, director of the artistic activities department and head of theater at Assiut University, south of Cairo. “There are some activities, like theater, that cannot be held online.”

Gomaa, who is currently training students on theater online, says it is ineffective, especially in performing arts, which need audience interaction, even during rehearsals.

Mohammed Farouk, a student at Assiut University’s Faculty of Commerce and a member of the university’s poetry team, agrees with Gomaa about the difficulty of holding many activities online. “We try our best to participate and interact with our colleagues in poetry sessions online, but it is ineffective, as we are still in front of the computer and there is no real engagement,” he said. “The activity requires interaction, which is what we miss while sitting by the screens.”

Cumulative Problems

Supervisors of youth welfare and student activities in public universities acknowledge that there are many obstacles in electronic versions of activities, especially with the lack of technical capabilities and experience in running competitions on social media and other online platforms.

“We are working to help students in some individual games to interact online,” said Wedad Abdel-Hamid, student activities officer at Cairo University’s Faculty of Arts. “However, this is a difficult matter, especially since we have not received any training so far on methods of communicating with students remotely and activating the competitions included in the student activity plans. Financial support is very limited, and we only have two computers.”

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Before the pandemic, Egyptian students were already reluctant to engage in activities, especially in light of the poor university budgets for such programs. (See a related article, “Participation in Student Activities Drops in Egypt.”) With the spread of the pandemic and the shift toward e-learning, many students found themselves under pressure to study in a new method and in a tense psychological atmosphere.

“We do not have enough time to participate in these activities. We spend most of the day attending lectures online, and we do not find time or energy to attend activities that are also electronic,” said Basant Abdel Rahman, a student in Mansoura University’s sociology department.

Laila Ibrahim, a law student at South Valley University, agrees with Abdel-Rahman about the difficulty of finding time for online activities, noting that she never even participates in in-person activities.

“What matters to me now is just to finish my studies,” she said. “I think I’m doing the same thing as many students do today.”

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