Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lessons from Egypt: Learn to be independent

I WISH to heap praises on our government, the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Wisma Putra and other volunteers for undertaking the mammoth task of evacuating thousands of Malaysian students from Egypt.

However, I feel the reported RM50 million spent on the mass evacuation could have been avoided or partially saved. My nephew (fondly called Angah), a fourth-year medical student at Mansoura University, about 100km from Cairo, concurs with me on this matter.

Here is a brief account of the worrying trend among our students, as related by Angah.

Malaysian students had been forewarned by their respective unions not to venture into cities on Tuesday, Jan 25, which happened to be a public holiday, to commemorate Police Day because a big anti-Hosni Mubarak public demonstration was to be held on that day.

The sight of the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians marching down the streets prompted our students to push the panic button.

Fearing civil unrest beyond unprecedented proportions, they began calling their parents, Wisma Putra, the Malaysian embassy and even our television stations asking for help and demanding their parents to pressure the government to bring them home.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and our embassy in Cairo had initially adopted a wait-and-see attitude, which was rightly so, because Egyptians were more concerned about ejecting their president and not ejecting foreigners from their country.

Furthermore, the populace respects Malaysian students. After all, our students have been studying at Cairo's Al-Azhar University even before Merdeka, albeit in smaller numbers.

Needless to say, the persistent calls from students to their parents and from parents to Wisma Putra, our embassy and TV stations left our government with no choice but to evacuate the students.

Nonetheless, we could have saved a substantial amount of money by evacuating only students in the two hotspots, Cairo and Alexandria, because in other cities where our students were located, Mansoura, Zagazig, Tanta and Dumyat, there was less public disorder.

Here are two lingering questions: In future, would parents expect our government to recall our students from countries where they are studying if things over there go awry? Next, who's footing the bill for our students' flight back to Egypt?

A costly lesson has been learned from this event.

Parents should remind their children that once they board a plane to further their studies abroad, they are on the threshold of adulthood and should not act like cry-babies shouting: "We want to go home". They should have courage in the face of adversity.

"Bravo" to the few students who stayed put in Egypt and to my nephew Angah and his 60-odd fellow students who went to Turkey, Jordan and Europe during the uprising.

They have the stuff that "Malaysia Boleh" is made of.

Read more: Lessons from Egypt: Learn to be independent


Post a Comment