South Africa Universities Close Amid Violent Tuition Protests

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Like many South African university students, Nontsikelelo Selleo is angry. And, like many young black South Africans, she says she struggles financially, but has yet to see the equality and prosperity promised with the end of apartheid two decades ago, the BBC reports.

The effects of that anger have been seen across South Africa recently, as student protests for free university education have escalated, prompting several institutions to temporarily close, just as students are preparing for end-of-term exams.

According to the BBC, several large schools have reported vandalism against university property and scuffles between security staff and protesters. The University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, reported that authorities found fire bombs on campus over the weekend, tweeting a photo of what looked like homemade Molotov cocktails.

Protesting students barged into classes Monday at the University of Johannesburg, prompting Selleo’s lecturer to cancel class. Now, says the 21-year-old accounting student, she’s mad at the protesters.

“As someone who’s about to finish their degree now, and then this strike affects them, they fail or then something happens, then they have to repeat the modules next year,” she said as she stood outside the university gates Monday.

At least four South African universities have closed as student protests turned violent following the government’s proposal last week of tuition hikes of up to 8 percent.

In the wake of universities’ crises in South African, a number of students who demonstrated in Margibi County that vandalized properties and blocked major highways trying to claim government’s attention—all in an effort to see their teachers back in the classrooms, definitely missed the mark.

This is because their action caused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to order those teachers who had protested, dismissed, while she promised to deal with students who were part of the demonstrations decisively.

President Sirleaf upon her arrival from the United States at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Margibi County Wednesday last week, called on the Ministry of Education (MOE) to close with immediate effect, those schools that carried out the strike actions. She also said that if teachers of those schools were involved, they should be dismissed as well.

Last Tuesday, protesting students in Unification Town (Smell-No-Taste) near RIA blocked the airport-Monrovia highway demanding the return of their teachers to class.

This was preceded by another strike action the day before, when normal commercial activities and the free-flow of traffic were brought to a standstill in Kakata, Margibi County’s political capital. Those students took to the streets in solidarity with the leadership of the National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) demanding the resignations of Education Minister George Werner and Monrovia Consolidated School System Superintendent Benjamin Jacobs.

The students’ actions, however, turned violent, resulting in ransacking of several public buildings in Kakata. Also, they reportedly vandalized government facilities, including the 13th Judicial Circuit Court, offices of the National Elections Commission, the county’s Service Center and part of the fence that surrounds the Ministry of Education (MOE) facilities in Kakata.

As to the fate of the striking students, President Sirleaf said the students’ actions have caused a lot of loses to the government, private citizens, companies and organizations, especially airlines and as such, the students would have to bear the consequences of their actions.

MOE Communication director, J. Macim Bletahn, could not be reached yesterday as his phone was at switch-off.

Meanwhile, up to press time last night, it was not clear whether the MOE had carried out the President’s mandate to close down the schools and dismiss teachers that were involved and also investigate at least a number of students reportedly involved in last week’s demonstrations.


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