By Felipe Bueno
South African collegiate learning came to a grinding halt when protests against the unprecedented, government-sanctioned rise in tuition fees broke out across the country. Foreign Policy reports that the price of tuition in South Africa has nearly doubled since 2008, greatly increasing the number of students who drop out before finishing their degree.
According to the International Business Times, the generation born after the end of apartheid, known as the “born-free generation,” still faces many injustices. Tuition fees in South Africa have been rising steadily for the past six years, and although President Jacob Zuma said in a press conference that there will be a zero-percent increase in university fees in 2016, a year of respite cannot fix the damage already done.
Foreign Policy reports that of the 40,000 South Africans that enter a university or a technical college, only 15 percent will graduate. An average of only 6,000 students graduating college every year does not have positive implications on South Africa’s future, especially in its current state of being very developed in some aspects and underdeveloped in most.
The low retention rate is due in large part to the fact that students are unable to work and attend school, aggravated by the long periods of time spent commuting to and from school, a problem left over from the apartheid when the black population was forced to live away from centers of learning.
The Economist purports that halting the increase in the cost of tuition will do more harm than good to South Africa’s expected budget deficit of 3.6 percent. The school system might suffer even more as the government approaches its 50 percent debt ceiling.
A placard held by students in a march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria said, “Our parents were sold dreams in 1994. We’re just here for a refund.” The protests were relatively peaceful compared to the Soweto Uprising, in which 20,000 high school students took to the streets in protest and upwards of 176 were killed.