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May 8, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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#FeesMustFall in South Africa

South Africa has a long history of protest, with the Apartheid era in the living memory of much of the population. Since 2012, student protests have developed into an ideological battle with major disruptions to campuses.

While these protests began over issues including academic exclusions, student accommodation, and poor living conditions, the dominant narrative since 2015 has been a call for free tertiary education and the decolonisation of the curriculum, after tuition fees were set to increase by approximately 10%.

The 2015 #FeesMustFall movement began in Johannesburg and spread to campuses across the country. Although tuition fees were frozen in 2016 as a result, protests have continued; with many universities closing for extended periods.

An academic at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, spoke with Salient and described the discourses surrounding the protests as complex, political, and “influenced by South Africa’s difficult culture of protest.”

He said that students, both protesting and non-protesting, had faced major challenges as a result. “Every semester, there have been major, constant disruptions.”

He described protesting students throwing large rocks at other students, police firing rubber bullets at protesters, and test conditions requiring police supervision.

Often, you’re just lecturing and then suddenly, there’s a serious protest and staff and students are chased out of the lecture theatre.”

Justin Palmer, who moved from South Africa to New Zealand in 2013, reflected on the hugely different student experiences in both countries. “The problems that people have here [at VUW] would never even register. […] I’m very grateful to be studying at a university where my biggest issue to date is not being able to operate the printers and having to use the stairs in the library.”

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