South African University Reopens after Week Long Protest
By admin October 29, 2015

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University of Witwatersrand, one of South Africa’s top universities, reopened this Wednesday after a weeklong nationwide protest. All classes and activities resumed and a new postponed exam schedule will be decided soon. The reopen follows with President Jacob Zuma’s concession to the recent protest and agree that there will not be a tuition increase for university students in 2016.

The protest began last Wednesday, when students from Western Cape gathered outside of the South African Parliament and protested the planned 10-15 percent school tuition increase in 2016. Within one week, those students managed to mobilize the whole country into a nationwide movement which later became know as “#FeesMustFall.” This protest is the largest student protest since the famous 1976 Soweto anti-apartheid demonstration, and has forced universities to close around South Africa.

Tuition fees vary across universities and majors in South Africa, for instance medical students’ tuition could be as high as $45,000 per year. And according to official figures, white households still earn six times more than black households. Some students found their household income is either high enough to afford the tuition or low enough to qualify for certain fellowships. Hence the plan to increase tuition fees enraged the students, and they are calling for a 0% increase in the fees and free education.

On the other hand, since the 2009 economic recession, the government does not have spare money to help subsidize universities.. Some universities have warned a finance shortfall emergency in 2016 due to the freeze of fee increase, and they expect the state to cover the gap of the shortfall, which would obliviously add more burdens on government expenditure.

Until today, some students were continuing protests and asking for free education. It has been stated that “the discussions about free university education would continue into next year, in line with government pledges to consider the issue.” Hopefully, all forced shutdown universities will reopen soon so that all academic programs will be resumed. Besides the under performing economy, lack of government income, and high university tuition, another underlying problem this student protest reflected is the inequality still existing in the society, and this is a challenge that South Africa government still needs to face and address.



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