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Africa

South African universities to cap fee increases as protests mount

Students in South Africa have vowed to press ahead with protests against higher tuition fees, despite promises that the rises will be capped at six percent. They fear the move will still deepen inequality.

South Africa's universities had said they wanted to hike fees by between 10 and 15 percent, but students representatives complained this would make higher education unaffordable for the poor.

After an urgent meeting with South Africa's Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, university authorities directed that all fee increases be limited to six percent.

South Africa's Mail & Guardian website reported Tuesday that students burned tires, occupied buildings and threw up barricades at the University of Cape Town. 23 students were arrested by police.

Watch video 03:36

South African students protest tuition fees hike

Several universities have come to a standstill as students pledged to continue with their protests against fee increases for 2016. Nzimande said Wits University, University of Cape Town, Rhodes University and Fort Hare University had been affected by the protests.

The increases initially proposed by the universities would mean a student at university living in a hall of residence would have to pay nearly $8,000 (7,000 Euros) a year. Those living in outside accommodation would pay over $3,300. Half of these sums must be paid in advance.

Südafrika, Studentenproteste in Kapstadt

Students say the double digit increases proposed by the universities would twice the rate of inflation

Unresolved legacy of apartheid?

Mcebo Dlamini, former President of the Students Representative Council at Wits University in Johannesburg, accused the universities of using upfront payments "to deny a black child an opportunity to access higher education. We are saying those fees must fall because they are resemblance of apartheid."

Khulekani Skosana, secretary-general of Congress of South African Students (COSAS) told DW the South African government wasn't doing enough to redress the imbalances of apartheid.

COSAS was originally set up as an anti-apartheid organization in 1979.

Skosana said the South African government "must begin by regulating university fees. They must also nationalize all universities so that education is not treated like a business."

Not everybody would go that far. But Professor Linda Chisholm from the University of Johannesburg, who is a former advisor on education to the South African government, told DW she understood the students' grievances.

Südafrika, Studentenproteste in Kapstadt

Universities argue they have to raise fees to maintain standards, but students are unconvinced

"I think the students have a point. Enrollments at all South African universities have doubled over the last 18 years but funding has just not kept pace."

Search for a solution

Nzimande, the minister for higher education, said capping the fee increases at six percent would be crucial for the "immediate resumption of the academic programme in our institutions."

Tebogo Thothela, who represented the protesting students at the meeting with Nzimande said convincing students to accept six percent would not be easy. "We can't guarantee what the reaction would be."

Many students have said they will not back down from their demand for a "zero percent increase."

#FeesMustFall has been trending on social media across South Africa.

Thuso Khumalo in Johannesburg contributed to this report

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