Protesters at the university's gates. Photo sent in by an Observer.
Fort Hare University’s main campus, in Alice, South Africa, is eerily quiet today. That’s because the administration of this renowned college, which counts Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe as former students, has sent its entire student body home, following days of protests against sharply rising lodging fees.
The university’s vice chancellor ordered all students to evacuate on Tuesday, giving them just a few hours' notice. The university said that none of them would be allowed back until next Tuesday, when they will be asked to sign a written commitment to abide by the campus rules. This came in the wake of days of on-and-off protests, during which students burned tyres and blocked parts of campus from administrators. Students were outraged over a 90 percent rise in student housing fees. Police met them with rubber bullets on Monday, and reportedly arrested 21 students.
Debris from a fire started by students during a protest over rising housing costs. Photo sent in by an Observer.

“Thousands of students are affected by this rise”

Akhona (not her real name) is a student at the Alice campus of University of Fort Hare.
Last year, the university decided to outsource its student housing to a private company. Students were against it – and they were right to be. When we got back to school this January, students were faced with a sudden 90 percent jump in rent in the majority of the campus’ residences. For example, students who paid 9,000 Rand [about 760 euros] for rent last year now pay 19,000 Rand [about 1,600 euros]. Thousands of students are affected by this rise.
They justified this with cosmetic changes – just painting the walls, changing a bit of furniture, and installing CCTV cameras and security gates that make us feel like we’re in a prison. Students did not want this! In some female residences, they’re now planning on putting in bunk beds to cram four students in rooms meant for two.
Others, like me, who live in older housing that has yet to be renovated, will surely see our rents skyrocket as well. The university administration has to do something. With this and the price of some courses increasing as well, poor kids soon won't have a chance to access high education. Fort Hare was regarded as one of the less-costly universities in the country, and it caters mostly to students from poor backgrounds, but now with what's going on, less and less children will be educated.
Students marching through Fort Hare's main campus. Photo sent in by an Observer.