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Published: Tue, October 11, 2016
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Police, students clash as South Africa's Wits university reopens

Police, students clash as South Africa's Wits university reopens

"Our concern in this regard is that it may create unnecessary tension between students themselves and other stakeholders, raising security risks and serving as a symbol of disunity of the university", the statement read.

The cost of university education, prohibitive for many black students, has become a symbol of the inequalities that endure in South Africa more than two decades after the end of apartheid. At least two people were arrested and some minor injuries were reported, the university said.

Students demanding free education react as they are fired at by riot police officers during a protest outside the University of the Witwatersrand at Braamfontein, in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 10,2016.

But marches by hundreds of protesters showed that a return to normalcy isn't on the schedule at the campus in Johannesburg.

The rallies have resulted to a week-long shutdown of some campuses in the country.

Students wearing face masks during protests face suspension.

This is the fourth week of protests sparked by a government proposal to raise tuition fees by up to 8% in 2017.

"It's not a threat", Habib said in the interview, "it's a simple statement of the fact that if Wits University is not teaching and not doing research then there's no objective for it to be open".

Classes were also disrupted at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape. Fire destroyed a library at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

"That's when our government is going to understand the seriousness of the matter", he said.

Protests first erupted a year ago, then eased off as the government froze fee increases and set up a commission to look into the education funding system. In addition, government subsidies to higher education have decreased and students have to make up the fee differential. Students are to inform the heads of security and respective deans if they wish to continue classes so security measures can be put in place.

Despite violent clashes between authorities and protesters on Monday, the Wits University senior executive team says it will continue with its academic programme.

"The majority of lectures resumed this morning but were then disrupted by large groups of protesters", the university said.

"By attempting to force open the academic programme without dealing with the issues does in fact open us up to not just volatility but possibly endangering everyone on campus including students and staff".

"Essentially what they are saying is if there is no free education, there should be no education at all", Wits rector Adam Habib said last week, adding that the whole 2016 academic year could be lost.

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