South African students protest tuition fee hike

South African students at top universities protest over plans to raise tuition fees next year

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Students from the University of the Witwatersrand overturn a vehicle off campus after blocking traffic, during protests in Johannesburg on October 19, 2015

Updated Oct 23, 2015

South African university students held demonstrations against administrators' plans to raise tuition fees by up to 11,5 percent next year. The students burned tyres and set up barricades to an entrance of a campus on Monday night as the latest wave of continued protest.

South African police reportedly put out fires as the students watched and removed the barricade at the entrance of the University of Cape Town, located in the country’s Western Cape Province.

Several students who occupied the university were arrested on Tuesday morning.

Last few days, similar protests were held at universities countrywide, with some classes being temporarily closed at affected universities.

Police also fired stun grenades to spread protesters at Rhodes University in the southern town of Grahamstown in Eastern Cape Province.

Local media reported that the students also gathered at the city of Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand on Tuesday. They reportedly overturned vehicles which attempted to drive into the campus.

Police did not immediately comment on demonstrations.

The demonstrations came a day after South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said that the government could no longer afford to provide free education for poor students and each university must cater for its own finances.

The government has provided about 30 billion rand ($2 billion) for the financial year 2015/2016, with 21 billion rand ($1,6 billion) given as subsidies to various universities. The rest is shared between a national bursary for students who is in need and other grants.

A student wears a sticker calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the campus of the University of Cape Town on March 20, 2015 (Reuters)

The students said that raising fees would be disadvantage for African students who had already limited access to universities during decades of apartheid rule, or racial segregation which lasted between 1940s and 1990s.

University administrators in South Africa’s most advanced economy said that they had no choice except raising fees so as to finance academic costs.

Students in South Africa have had an increasingly active role in pushing for changes. They also demanded to be removed of the statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, the founder of the South African territory of Rhodesia, at the University of Cape Town. They said the statue represented institutionalized racism.

Students at Sellenbosch have also demanded to be taught English instead of learning Afrikaans, the language they recognised with apartheid rule that ended in 1994.

TRTWorld and agencies