Fees Must Fall 2016 protests hit boiling point in Joburg

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 21: Students of the Witwatersrand University march in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 21, 2015 during a protest against fee hikes. Universities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and other cities have halted lectures during several days of protests against fee increases that many students say will force poor blacks further out of the education system (Photo by Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Student protesters at the university of the Witwatersrand and UCT are gathering in numbers in a bid to shut down campuses in response to a fee hike proposal for next year – while the SAPS is out in force, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the crowds.

Students are unhappy with the proposed fee increase for 2017, announced by higher education minister Blade Nzimande on Monday.

The minister said that fee increases would be determined by university councils, and recommended that they not go over 8%. As part of government’s plan to help poor students, all fee increases for students on the NSFAS – and those in the so-called ‘missing middle’ – would be covered by taxpayers.

Students have rejected this proposal, saying they want free education for all – echoing the same call from 2015.

According to student representatives, the protesters are following the same process as last year, by barricading the entrances of the university and stopping cars from entering.

This year, students will reportedly be targeting private businesses in their protest, possibly marching on the JSE and big firms to get them more involved in funding free education in the country.

So far, 30 students have reportedly been arrested, while crowds of students have taken to the streets of Joburg. Police have responded by firing rubber bullets and stun grenades at the students, which has been described as a “militant response” by student representatives.

UCT protests

Protest action has also cropped up at other universities, though not all unified under #FeesMustFall, specifically.

Read Also:  Important research inputs on #FeesMustFall

UCT’s lectures and tests were cancelled amid protest action calling for suspended UCT students who were involved in last year’s protests to be reinstated at the university.

According to UCT vice chancellor Max Price, the university is keeping police activity to a minimum to avoid conflict.

However, reports from the university show that protesters are gaining in number, while the UCT medical school has also blocked entrances in a bid to shut down the campus.

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Mangi Tshikomba is a technology entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of Things Technologies and founding editor of EdTechDojo.co.za. He is a OYW Ambassador, Queens Young Leader and Brightest Young Minds Alumni. He holds BSc(Hon) Civil Engineering from Wits University, Jhb and Leadership Certificate from certificate from Cambridge University, UK. His interests are in Entrepreneurship, EdTech and Early Childhood Development (ECD).