Higher Education Students Violently Fight For College Costs, Equity In South Africa; Is America Next?

Violence has erupted at a higher education institution in South Africa as students fight for college costs and equity. Observers note that what has happened at the University of Witwatersrand could also happen in America, especially if the government continues to ignore issues plaguing universities.

The situation at Witwatersrand has led to the enforcement of tighter security measures as students and members of the academe continue negotiations. "The university believes it had no choice but to bring in the police and private security," one academic said, according to Mail and Guardian.

Earlier, riots took place in the school and student protesters burned down buildings or punched and took administrators hostages. The school ordered lockdowns and curfews in retaliation, leading to delays in exams.

Police also shot students with rubber bullets and stun guns to pacify the riots. A student died during a demonstration, according to The Atlantic.

The problem in this university started in 2015 after the officials proposed a tuition fee increase. Protesters instead demanded free college. The government obliged with a one year freeze but the issues remain unsettled, thus the conflict has boiled over in recent weeks.

"At the heart of the conflict is that young people don't feel they have the same opportunities as their parents," university president Adam Habib said. A denial of access to higher education means these students might not be able to land good jobs that will help them improve their lives as adults. Only rich families in South Africa have this opportunity.

Meanwhile, as the student population increase, government universities continue to be riddled with problems like lack of teachers and funding. Thus, it cannot properly provide for the needs of students.

Economist Sean Muller sees the same patterns happening in U.S. higher education institutions, specifically those at the mercy of government resources. "If you're trying to give hope where maybe there isn't hope, you're going to overload the universities while underfunding them," he said.


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