Po­lice of­fi­cers, stu­dents clash over S. Africa univer­sity fees

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — One of South Africa’s top univer­si­ties de­scended into vi­o­lence on Mon­day, with po­lice fir­ing tear gas, rub­ber bul­lets and a wa­ter can­non at stone-throw­ing stu­dents who are locked in a bit­ter na­tional dis­pute with ad­min­is­tra­tors and the gov­ern­ment over demon­stra­tors’ de­mands for free ed­u­ca­tion for some stu­dents.

Stun grenades boomed and gun­shots crack­led as po­lice cleared pro­test­ers at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand in Jo­han­nes­burg, the most promi­nent site of a stu­dent move­ment that re­cently shut other univer­si­ties and prompted of­fi­cial warn­ings that badly needed medics, engi­neers and other skilled work­ers might not be able to grad­u­ate this year.

As po­lice he­li­copters cir­cled, some pro­test­ers spilled into city streets. A bus was set on fire, and thick smoke bil­lowed into the air. A Catholic pri­est who ap­pealed for calm was struck in the mouth by a rub­ber bul­let and was be­ing treated, South African me­dia re­ported.

The univer­sity, also known as Wits, ac­cused stu­dents of throw­ing rocks “that could have maimed or killed peo­ple” and said pro­test­ers had re­sponded to ne­go­ti­a­tion of­fers from the cam­pus ad­min­is­tra­tion with threats.

Stu­dents dis­rupted classes and threw rocks on sev­eral other cam­puses na­tion­wide, said Kho­motso Phahlane, the act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner. He said there was no need for a state of emer­gency.

The gov­ern­ment paid 39 per­cent of the cost of run­ning univer­si­ties in the state sys­tem in 2015, down from 50 per­cent in 2000, ac­cord­ing to a study by sup­port­ers of free ed­u­ca­tion. Dwin­dling state money re­sulted in higher fees for stu­dents with lim­ited re­sources, it said. There are 26 univer­si­ties re­ceiv­ing state funds.

YESHIEL PANCHIA/AP

A po­lice of­fi­cer and a stu­dent pro­tester clash Mon­day at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand in Jo­han­nes­burg amid a bit­ter na­tional dis­pute over ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing.

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