South African universities close after tuition fee protests

At least three South African universities suspended classes on September 21 because of student protests over tuition fees after the government recommended above-inflation increases for 2017.

Students demanding free tertiary education marched near Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, known as “Wits”, where classes were called off for the rest of this week.

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.

Demonstrations since 2015 over the cost of university education, prohibitive for many black students, have highlighted frustration at the inequalities that persist more than two decades after the 1994 end of white-minority rule.

The latest protests were triggered by a government recommendation on early this week that 2017 tuition fee increases be capped at 8 percent. Inflation stands at 5.9 percent.

Police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said 31 students arrested  at Wits had been released, but gave no further details.

The government and the main opposition party have accused students of turning campuses across the country into battlegrounds and damaging university property.

Weeks of violent demonstrations last year 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 programmes.


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