South African campuses see new wave of student protests, closures

By AT editor - 5 October 2016 at 4:37 pm
South African campuses see new wave of student protests, closures

The University of Witwatersrand again canceled classes Wednesday amid ongoing student protests that have swept across South Africa’s universities.

The protests escalated at the Johannesburg campus this week, with clashes between students and police armed with tear gas and rubber bullets. The university’s attempt to resume classes following negotiations with campus activists proved unsuccessful as students marched and threw rocks.

“Having assessed the situation on campus, we have decided to suspend all classes for the rest of this week,” school officials said in their new statement. Classes are planned to resume Monday.

The protests followed South African officials’ September announcement of a 2017 tuition increase, with the commitment to cap any hikes at 8 percent. The decision reignited student demands for a free education, with fresh protests and violent outbreaks that had previously emerged last year and earlier in the fall.

The protests have spread, with campus closures at University of Capetown and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in recent weeks. Protests and closures also occurred at University of KwaZulu-Natal, with heightened activity at the Durban University of Technology, News 24 reports. The student protests continue at the University of Pretoria, while students in Alice who refused to leave their residence halls during spring break faced court-ordered eviction at Fort Hare University.

The #feesmustfall campaign was first sparked at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in 2015, when students with outstanding fees were prevented from registering. It quickly spread, with activists emphasizing students’ academic concerns within the wider context of South Africa’s difficult economy, persistent racial inequality, and the demand for social justice.

Image: AP File Photo

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