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Student Upheavals Roil South African Universities, Too

The United States is not alone in dealing with new waves of student unrest. South Africa too is embroiled, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

Student protesters have something of a sacred status in South Africa because it is believed that they helped bring down apartheid in past waves of protest and violence. The demands keep escalating too, it seems, going beyond the university to continuing social and racial inequalities in the culture at large.

The latest round of upheavals is not inspiring the same level of respect, however. Student protestors are targeting numerous issues, from tuition costs and housing availability to signs of white cultural prominence, such as the continuance of Afrikaans as an official language at certain institutions. The black-run government of President Jacob Zuma seems uncertain of how to deal with the students. Even as he agreed to contain costs, student demonstrators surrounding his office were tear-gassed by the police, and at other demonstrations students have been shot with rubber bullets, sprayed with hoses, and dragged to police cars, similar to police actions during the apartheid protest era.

But reminiscent of that era too, are some of the student tactics, which include setting fire to campus buildings, necessitating constant disruption of campus activity, and in one case shutting down a college indefinitely. At the University of Cape Town, protestors torched a stack of paintings of mostly white UCT benefactors. The protestors are mainly black “born-frees” of the post-apartheid generation, but it seems they are simply repeating the past without really learning from it.

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