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South African students face off with police in fees protest

The #FeesMustFall movement has seen protests descend into violence while they battle the police, college and government in fight for free education

A South African University has become the arena for the fight for free education, as students faced off with police in protests that have turned violent.

Students at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg are entering another week of resistance, with Monday seeing altercations with authorities, as well as police firing tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets at protestors.

The Fees Must Fall movement had initially taken over lecture halls and disrupted classes to bring light to their demands for free education. Wits reopened on Monday after its month-long closure due to the protests. University officials have warned that the entire academic year could be cancelled if protestors did not quit, or keep to supposed designated areas.

Protests initially began when the government proposed increasing tuition fees by up to 8 per cent beginning in 2017, despite the move to freeze education costs back in 2015. The last fee freeze was instigated after large student protests. In the last eight years, fees have increased by 80 per cent. Black students have asserted that they are being priced out of education by the increasing costs - in 2015, only 3.2 per cent of SA university students were black.

Undergraduate tuition fees at Wits, one of the country's most expensive universities, range from 29,620-58,580 rand a year, according to Reuters, beyond what many black students can afford.

A statement from the student campaign has said that demonstrations will continue until their demands are met.

Some incidents of vandalism have been reported, as well as examples of students throwing stones at campus security guards and police. At least 27 students were arrested across the country as others responding to the situation. The backlash has now escalated into the biggest protests the area has seen since the end of Apartheid in 1994.

Students protesting and a Catholic priest who attempted to appeal for an end to the violence have been shot with rubber bullets, according to South African media.

There has been a mass appeal for supplies, medical assistance and support for students involved at Wits.