Hate Sky-High Tuition? Here's How Students In South Africa Fought Back

Photo: RODGER BOSCH/AFP/ Getty Images.
Thousands of students demonstrate at the University of Cape Town as part of the #feesmustfall movement.
American students feeling the pain of student loans and wanting to fight back against rising college costs can look to their peers in South Africa for inspiration. After days of protests, South African students won a major victory in the fight to keep college costs down.

Thousands of students filled streets and campuses across the country to demonstrate against plans to increase university fees by upwards of 10% in some cases.

An offer from the country's minister of higher education to cap the increase at public universities at 6% was rejected by student leaders. On Friday, following a meeting with student leaders and university officials, President Jacob Zuma announced the fees will be frozen in the coming year.

"On the matter at hand, we agreed that there will be a zero increase of university fees in 2016,” he said in a speech that was broadcast live. “Discussions will continue looking at broader issues than the fees."

The motto #FeesMustFall became a rallying cry, garnering support from people inside the country and beyond. Campuses across South Africa shut down and delayed exams amid the protests, according to the BBC.
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Much like in the U.S., students in South Africa say they are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of college and books. Critics there argued that the hikes to tuition, which costs several thousands of dollars a year, would be especially detrimental to Black youth, who continue to be underrepresented in higher education.

The Associated Press called the demonstrations "one of the biggest student movements to have emerged since South Africa rejected white minority rule in 1994."

President Zuma also announced that his administration would discuss free tutition and address racism in education. Tensions remained high leading up to the president's announcement on Friday. The BBC reported that police used stun guns and water cannons on crowds as some demonstrators set fires and threw stones.

The hashtag #feeshavefallen began trending worldwide as supporters of the movement in South Africa and beyond celebrated the victory on social media.

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