Riot police in South Africa have fired teargas and stun grenades at hundreds of students who stormed the parliament precinct in Cape Town in protest at a proposed increase in university fees in 2016.
Universities throughout South Africa have been involved with student protests due to the 11% rise in tuition fees.
The protests over student fees began at the University of the Witwatersrand (known as Wits), in Johannesburg, after the announcement of a planned 10.5 percent fee increase.
The protests were occupied by so many students at Wits, that they not only shut down the campus, they also shut down part of the public roads.
Students are angry at the increase of tuition and fees due to a majority of them are going to be excluded from attending due to the spike.
Students were reciting struggle songs as they were walking and protesting.
Student leader, Mcebo Freedom Dlamini told mail and guardian, “So what we wanted is the public to see and hear our cries. That’s the point of demonstrating just outside the university. To our parents, we’re sorry that we’re doing this, but we had to do it because our mothers cannot afford to bring us here next year.”
Student Sibusiso Kumkani also told mail and guardian, “What about the future generation? Will my little sister afford to study here? I think not. So, this is about the future as well.”
During a time when students in America are protesting over racial discrimination, students in Africa are also fighting the school system.
Students in Africa feel that since students in Germany protested and garnered free education as the outcome, then they can do the same. They understand that the students are the voice and when gathered together, that voice is powerful.
The tear gassing happened due to the students trying to stage a sit in at the parliament building in Cape Town during a budget speech.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene spoke on the protests and the raising of fees saying, “We have been reminded this past week of the challenges of financing the expansion of further education and university opportunities,” he said. “It needs to be said that disruption of learning is not constructive, neither is disruption of parliament, but minister Nzimande has rightly indicated the need to strengthen student financing further, and to find solutions where the current situation is inadequate, and government is seized with this matter.”
The universities have had a lack of government funding and therefore raised its tuition prices to make up the difference. With government subsidies coming in at below inflation, the only alternative universities have is to source funds from student fees.
Professor Habib, vice-chancellor of Wits University, stated “The only resolution for a decline in student fees is for it to be matched by an increase in subsidies from the state or through new partnerships with the banks. It is time for us to find a lasting solution to put an end to the persistent student strikes.”
So, will tuition and fees be lowered in order to accommodate the students? Or will the students have to continue shutting the campuses down one by one?