Students protest Afrikaans use at South African universities

AP News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2016 12:44 PM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African university had to shut down its campuses Friday after violent protests over the use of Afrikaans as an official teaching language — a demonstration that echoed students' demands during apartheid decades ago.

At the University of Pretoria, student members of the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party came to blows with AfriForum, an Afrikaner cultural group, according to an online video. More than 20 students were arrested in the clashes, South African media reported. Campuses were shut down.

Meanwhile, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg said 14 students were arrested after allegedly setting a bus on fire and burning a mattress outside the library to protest school fees. Members of the Fees Must Fall movement, a student protest group, tweeted that 20 demonstrators were arrested.

Student demonstrations have long played a part in South African politics. In 1976 black high-school students marched against the apartheid regime's plan to enforce Afrikaans as the language of instruction. Now, more than twenty years after the end of minority white rule, students of all races says they are protesting against the lack of transformation at the country's universities, including high tuition costs and the official use of Afrikaans on some campuses.

Earlier this week, students at the University of Cape Town built shacks on campus and burned artwork during protests over a lack of student housing.

At the University of KwaZulu-Natal at campuses in the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, support staff and students demonstrated against what they say is unfair employment terms for cleaners, gardeners and security guards.

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