Education is a right, not a privilege. At least this is what South African students protest for, as a response to the rise of university tuition fees. Three top universities had to close on Monday and now the movement is spreading at a national level; the people of South Africa are rising against the exclusion of low-income black students from higher education.

Students’ protest against fees                                                         (AFP)

By 2016, university tuition costs will have increased between 10-12%, twice the rate of the annual inflation of South Africa. Since the weakening of the South African currency, universities have had to acquire funding for research material and books from students tuitions. “South Africa continues to spend considerably less on universities than its emerging market counterparts” says Belinda Buzzon, former deputy vice-chancellor at the University Witwatersrand and current South African member of the parliament.

Last spring students started demanding more affordable fees, but it was not till last week that riots started taking place and more students joined the protest. These protests are the biggest demonstration organized by students since the end of apartheid. They are increasing every day, both in size and violence, resulting in student arrests. They started at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg. Witwatersrand had to close due to barricades and on Monday protests spread to the University of Cape Town (UCT) and to Rhodes University. The African News Agency reported that during a rally at the University of the Witwatersrand students were yelling ”No to fee increase”. Now, at least a dozen institutions like Stellenbosch University, Fort Hare University and the University of Pretoria have been affected and students are threatening to close all universities if fees don’t fall to reasonable levels. The University of Cape Town said in a statement “we respected the right to complain about fees, but we describe the demonstration as unlawful”.

Following the demonstrations, social media is buzzing, empowering the movement and spreading it worldwide, for example with the use of hashtags such as #FeesMustFall. Some students, such as Akosua Koranteng, UCT, have raised their voice to express their frustration “This is a fight not just against fees but against the system of economic, social and radical exclusion that is responsible for the high inequality and poverty”.

The government has offered to reduce the fee increase to a 6%, but the students haven’t accepted this offer. They maintain their reluctance to all fee increases and demand that their education is affordable and of quality, thereby minimizing inequality in South Africa. Since the end of apartheid the black population of South Africa hasn’t experienced a significant change in their education opportunities; they are still excluded from higher education due to economic disadvantages.
The government hasn’t responded since their last offer. These next few days will be critical, as the students are growing angrier and more frustrated by the minute, resorting to more violent means.


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