Determined protests against fee hikes, outsourcing and racism are spreading across universities in South Africa. They were sparked earlier this year, when students at Rhodes university demanded that the statue of Cecil Rhodes, a brutal British coloniser, be removed from the campus. They developed however into a much larger campaign for free education and against discrimination.

The largest South African teachers union, SADTU, has issued a statement in support of the aims of the students. It concludes: 'SADTU stands with all the students and the Progressive Youth Alliance organizations (PYA) leading the struggles in the tertiary institutions. Education is not a commodity but a public good.'  

The South African education campaign group, Equal Education, which fights privatisation and for free and equal education for all, is also standing in solidarity with the students. In a statement it says: 'As an organisation of learners in township and rural schools, we know that many of our members and their peers may never pass through the doors of higher education because of exorbitant fees.' The impossibility for low income families, who are predominantly people of colour, to afford university for their children is having a knock-on effect in school-based (K12) education, since there is a shortage of teachers and particularly of teachers from poor communities.

Yet this economic and racial discrimination is directly contrary to the ruling African National Congress's Freedom Charter, which states: 'Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit.'

The young protesters have been occupying universities and refusing to let cars enter, despite being subject to racist attacks, including being driven at by cars and also violence from the police using tear gas and stun grenades.