South Africa: Mass student protests defeat fee hikes

October 25, 2015

Students sit in protest during a mass demonstration on the steps of Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town, October 22

In a victory for protesting students, South African President Jacob Zuma backtracked on October 23 and cancelled a planned university fee rise next year.

The decision came after days of student demonstrations shook South Africa in recent days. Plans to hike tuition fees for next year caused mass outrage for maintaining Apartheid-era barriers for its Black population, TeleSUR English reported on October 21.

Protests on at least five university campuses have escalated and resulted in the arrest of 23 student activists.

The hashtag “Fees Must Fall” has been used by students to publicise their protest against tuition hikes, which began when students shut down parts of the University of the Witwatersrand after a tuition hike of 10.5% was announced.

Many of the campuses facing protests, including the universities of Cape Town and Rhodes, were white-only institutions under Apartheid rule. TeleSUR English said this led students to say that the fee rise would disproportionately affect Black and poor people.

A group calling itself the National Shutdown Collective said in an October 20 statement: “We, the students of 2015, stand in solidarity with one another to proclaim that we will not be complicit in an endorsement of the capitalist agenda of commodification of education and any oppressions which seek to denigrate our being.

“We demand, among other things, that the exorbitant fees charged at institutions of higher learning be lowered in line with a progression toward opening the gates of higher learning for all.”

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