South African University Protests Threaten Entrance of 1 Million

  • Minister in presidency says universities in ‘critical period’
  • Jeff Radebe says cabinet is concerned about violent protests

South African university protests demanding free education may threaten the enrollment of 1 million students in 2017 if the current academic year can’t be completed, the minister in the presidency, Jeff Radebe, said.

Medical and engineering graduates won’t able to enter the economy next year if they can’t complete their courses because of the protests, Radebe told reporters Thursday after a cabinet meeting in Pretoria, the capital.

“This is a critical period for the academic program as examinations are around the corner,” he said. “Cabinet is also very concerned about the outbreak of violence in student protests.”

Weeks of violent protests at universities across the country are threatening the completion of the current academic year. While the state has promised to subsidize fees for poorer and middle-income families, it says it can’t afford and won’t consider free education for all and wealthy households must pay for tuition.

Africa’s most-industrialized economy is already contending with a skills shortage and a 27 percent unemployment rate. Finances at many of South Africa’s 26 universities are stretched by the government’s decision to limit tuition costs this year after student riots in 2015, with some saying they may not be able to continue operating.

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