- On Friday 23 October, in response to student protests, President Zuma of South Africa announced no increase in tuition fees.
- Underlying causes of dissatisfaction remain, South Africa remains one of the world's most unequal societies.
- In higher education, white males make up 53% of the staff population despite being only 8% of the population.
The students have won their demand of a 0% increase in tuition fees, with planned fee increases of up to 11.5%
, at the heart of the protests. However, as ongoing demonstrations
prove, the students' demands have been deeper than this. They have called for the "decolonization" and "transformation" of higher education institutions, the insourcing of outsourced workers (mostly cleaning, security and support staff, often the most vulnerable workers), and the release of their classmates arrested earlier in the week.
South Africa: more unequal now than during apartheid
South Africa, by many measures, is the most unequal society in the world. A quick look at national statistics from 2014
shows that on average the top 10% of wage earners take home 90 times more in wages than bottom 10%, the top 1% earn 393 times the bottom 10%. Inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient (a measure in which 0 is perfect equality and 1 perfect inequality), is a staggering 0.66
. Disturbingly, inequality has increased since the fall of apartheid.
Working people cannot afford basic necessities. Recent research
shows that a worker with an average of three dependents - all else remaining the same- will need to earn a wage of R4,125 (£200) a month to live above the poverty line. A shocking 60% of black African workers earn less than that, confirming that poverty, inequality and race in South Africa go hand-in-hand. Although state funding and university scholarships do exist, for many families university fees that can cost upwards of R40 000 (£2,000) make higher education an unattainable dream.
South Africa's youth also face a broader crisis. A third of young people
, aged 15 to 24, are not employed or in higher education and the unemployment rate for this group is 50%
. Primary and secondary education is also woefully inadequate, with only 36%
of students who start grade 1 completing their grade 12 exams. Once again, schools in black townships and rural areas have the least access to quality education. Not all protesting students come from poor