South African universities have recently faced many violent disruptions due to conflict over tuition prices. Buildings have been set on fire while student factions continue to clash. This is the second year of conflict between Students in South Africa and their universities over the high costs of tuition and the low pay for university staff.
The government budget for the past year only temporarily fixed the financial issues being protested, and violence continues. Students at the University of the Free State were attacked during their protest by rugby spectators, while students at Pretoria University have burned buses and artwork in clashes over language instruction policies.
A possible solution to the issue would involve allotting more funding in the next budget for public education and universities. If tuition prices were lowered, more students in South Africa would be able to attend university, thus beginning to dispel the conflict over tuition prices.
Protests began at Tshwane University of Technology, where students were unable to register for courses because of their outstanding debt. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was incapable of meeting its funding commitments, causing a wave of anger amongst the students when their education was disrupted by this failure of the NSFAS. Additional funding for NSFAS was included in the 2016 budget in attempt to dispel protests, but the protesters are still active and escalating in violence.
Education continues to suffer in South Africa due to the unaffordable costs of higher education. A majority of the funding to remedy the protests has gone to North-West University, where academic activities were suspended for over a month.
The shadow higher education minister, Belinda Bozzoli, claims that “radical student groups” had “directed money away from the legitimate needs of thousands of poor students.” She says that though some of the damages can be covered by insurers, universities are suffering and unable to provide adequate education while under attack.
Inequality in South Africa is a major cause for the protests. Approximately 70 percent of South Africans are paid so little that they qualify for free state housing. These citizens cannot afford university tuition fees.
Students in South Africa in poor financial situations can apply for a bursary to fund part of their education. However, students must pay off a portion of debt before graduating and pay their loans in full immediately upon graduation.
As a result of the conflict over tuition prices, the government has continued to freeze the increasing tuition prices for two years—a short-term solution for a long-term, foundational issue.
– Amanda Panella