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S. African Students Protest Against New Hikes in University Fees

September 20, 2016 at 08:30 am | Lifestyle

Mark Babatunde

Mark Babatunde

September 20, 2016 at 08:30 am | Lifestyle

Academic activities at the University of Cape Town were suspended Monday as students protested a hike in fees. Photo Credit: Surg Soc

University of Cape Town (UCT) students barricaded the entrance routes to the university’s campus Monday to protest a proposed announcement of a hike in university fees by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

According to reports by News24, the students blocked both the south and north entrances at UCT’s upper campus and all Jammie Shuttle routes were suspended.

Officials of the university who had anticipated the protests decided to temporarily shut down the university on Monday, with University Vice Chancellor Max Price saying, “We need to manage that and keep the peace. We felt as things stands we needed to give ourselves time to have an action plan going forward, which would include meeting with students.”

In the weeks leading up to the proposed increase, protests organized by students from the University of Kwazulu-Natal turned violent, with a university law library being set on fire.

Still, Price insisted that there was no way the government could provide 100 percent free tertiary education, “We can be pretty sure that the minister is not going to announce free education, certainly not now or at least for next year. So we want to hear the announcement, digest it, and figure out what the appropriate response [is] and not focus[e] on protests at [the] same time.”

Nzimande told newsmen in Pretoria that after wide-ranging consultations, stakeholders in higher education had come to the conclusion that while the universities may increase fees in 2017, the new adjustments must not go above 8 percent.

“We have looked at the challenges at hand from all sides and have concluded that the best approach would be to allow universities individually to determine the level of increase that their institutions will require.

“With the caution that this has to also take into account affordability of students and therefore has to be transparent, reasonable, and related to inflation-linked adjustments, our recommendation is that the fee adjustments should not go above 8 percent.”

Tuition Hike Ongoing Issue

This is not the first time South African students have protested tuition hikes. Last year, nationwide protests were set off, after tuition increases of 10 and 12 percent were announced.

Beginning at Johannesburg’s University of Witwatersrand, the protests — coined the #FeesMustFall movement — spread to Cape Town and Pretoria, with government officials soon announcing that they were willing to increase tuition by only 6 percent.

Students collectively rejected the new increase.

Ultimately, officials decided to temporarily table the fee hike issue until February of this year.

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