Po­lice clash with univer­sity stu­dents de­mand­ing free ed­u­ca­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

Protest­ing stu­dents sing at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand in Johannesburg, South Africa, yes­ter­day. South African po­lice have fired rub­ber bul­lets and set off stun grenades to dis­perse stu­dent pro­test­ers on a univer­sity cam­pus in Johannesburg. JOHANNESBURG (AP): SOUTH AFRICAN stu­dents protest­ing for free ed­u­ca­tion dis­rupted lec­tures at one of the coun­try’s lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties yes­ter­day, clash­ing with po­lice who tried to dis­perse crowds with tear gas, rub­ber bul­lets and stun grenades.

The vi­o­lence at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand, or Wits, in Johannesburg erupted de­spite an appeal from the vice-chan­cel­lor, Adam Habib. He had asked stu­dents and staff to “take back our cam­pus” from what he called a mi­nor­ity of stu­dents who would rather protest than study.

“Stop shoot­ing at us,” shouted a young woman, one of sev­eral fe­male pro­test­ers who stripped to the waist and ac­costed po­lice in hel­mets and body ar­mour.

FI­NAN­CIALLY STRUG­GLING

Sim­i­lar un­rest has oc­curred since last month at some other fi­nan­cially strug­gling South African uni­ver­si­ties, forc­ing a num­ber, in­clud­ing Wits, to close. The univer­sity sought to re­open Tues­day — the main cam­pus was dis­rupted, but classes pro­ceeded on other Wits cam­puses.

The gov­ern­ment said it will cover fee in­creases of poor univer­sity stu­dents in 2017, but pro­test­ers re­jected the con­ces­sion. Big­ger protests in 2015 forced the gov­ern­ment to an­nounce the sus­pen­sion of univer­sity fee in­creases this year.

The demand for free ed­u­ca­tion stems partly from wider dis­sat­is­fac­tion over eco­nomic in­equities in South Africa, and the be­lief that uni­ver­si­ties and other in­sti­tu­tions were not ad­e­quately trans­formed to ben­e­fit the black ma­jor­ity af­ter the end of white mi­nor­ity rule in 1994.

A SCARE TAC­TIC

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma says the protests have caused about $44 mil­lion in prop­erty dam­age and threaten to sab­o­tage the coun­try’s higher ed­u­ca­tion system.

“Wits is Ours,” read a ban­ner held up by pro­test­ers who ac­cused po­lice of con­fronting them first. They pulled up paving stones and broke them into pieces, hurl­ing the de­bris at of­fi­cers. Pro­test­ers also smashed the win­dows of a po­lice car.

“We’re all an­gry,” said Nku­l­uleko Tse­lane, a law stu­dent who had a large bump on the back of his head, the re­sult of what he said was a club­bing by univer­sity guards when vi­o­lence broke out Tues­day.

Tse­lane de­scribed univer­sity warn­ings that the protests might force the cancellation of the aca­demic year as a “scare tac­tic” and vowed that demon­stra­tions would con­tinue.

AP

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