On October 10th, one of South Africa’s major universities broke out into violent protests over the rising cost of higher education. Students are demanding a free education for institutions across the country; however, with a police response, the protests took a violent turn. Police have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas in response to the students throwing rocks and lighting things on fire. The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is the center of the student movement, but the student protests are spreading and affecting other institutions within the country.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the administration is trying to negotiate and respond to the student protests, but the students are not cooperating. The Minister of Education, Blade Nzimande, denounces the violence happening throughout the country and states that the academic programs are not able to run due to being “held ransom by irresponsible and disrespectful striking students.” Without the funding from student tuition, the administration states that programs will have to be cut and there would not be any funding for research programs.
Money is not everything, in terms of higher education, financial support needs to come from somewhere in order to effectively run an institution. Higher education and the human capital theory are almost synonymous. If a student invests in themselves, their knowledge cannot be separated from their body, making them more marketable for future job prospects. However, if there is no funding for institutional programs to run, the purpose of higher education diminishes, meaning less human capital. As long as there is access to higher education, the economy will benefit. In the case of South Africa’s institutions, this is not the case.
The administrative perspective is not what the students are focusing on with this protest. As stated in Al Jazeera article, university fees are not the center of this protest. The cost of education and the inequalities within the nation are prohibiting black students from attending higher education institutions. These protests were triggered by the government recommendation to increase tuition fees by eight percent; however, the frustration surround the inequalities have been going on for more than two decades after the end of white minority rule in South Africa.
In Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand has reopened; however, the student protests are still currently taking place. Whether or not the protest is fully about the rise of tuition or a way to finally fight for equality within the higher education system of South Africa, the protests have turned violent and students are being injured. Disruption and chaos will continue to spread among institutions within the country, and either way, academic programs will be damaged.
For a student perspective, watch this video.
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South African university engulfed in violence in protests over education costs. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-south-africa-student-protests-20161010-snap-story.html
South Africa: University fee protests turn violent. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2016/09/south-africa-students-fees-protests-turn-violent-160921071225187.html