Fee protests are again causing a halt in South Africa’s tertiary education system as three South African universities suspended classes on Wednesday because of the student protest over tuition fees.
The government had announced a recommendation on Monday of above-inflation fee increases for 2017. The increases were to be capped at 8 percent – above South Africa’s current inflation rate of 5.9 percent.
Students immediately took to the streets to protest the suggestion on Tuesday and South African police arrived the scene, firing tear gas to disperse students marching near the University of the Witwatersrand in downtown Johannesburg.
The students of that particular university have had their classes called off for the rest of the week. Along with Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, academic activities were also suspended at the University of Pretoria’s main campus, and the University of Cape Town said it had temporarily suspended classes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini speaking about Tuesday’s fee protests, said that 31 students had been arrested, but have now been released. But he gave no further details.
South Africa’s government, and surprisingly the main opposition party, have spoken up against the students, stating that they are turning campuses across the country into battlegrounds and damaging university property.
These protests are reminiscent of demonstrations that occurred last year which later turned violent and forced President Jacob Zuma to rule out fee raises for 2016, but university authorities have warned that another freeze for the coming year could damage their academic programs.
An increased cost of university education is considered to be prohibitive for many black students who display frustrations at inequalities that still persist decades after the 1994 end of white-minority rule.
Hopefully, this protests will not be as long and drawn out as was the case last year before the government and students reach an understanding.