PHOTOS: Students, Police Clash In South Africa Over Free Tuition Demands : The Two-Way Fires, stone-throwing, tear gas and water cannon filled the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand on Monday, when the school was supposed to reopen after weeks of unrest.
NPR logo PHOTOS: Students, Police Clash In South Africa Over Free Tuition Demands

PHOTOS: Students, Police Clash In South Africa Over Free Tuition Demands

Private security guards protect themselves from stones thrown by students from the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg on Monday. South African student protesters and police clashed in renewed violence as attempts to re-open the university descended into running battles on campus. Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Private security guards protect themselves from stones thrown by students from the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg on Monday. South African student protesters and police clashed in renewed violence as attempts to re-open the university descended into running battles on campus.

Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

After weeks of protests by South African students calling for free tuition, Monday was supposed to be the reopening of regular classes at the University of the Witswatersrand.

But marches by hundreds of protesters showed that a return to normalcy isn't on the schedule at the campus in Johannesburg.

Members of the "Fees Must Fall" movement entered auditoriums, disrupting classes and intimidating other students, Peter Granitz reported on Morning Edition.

Armored police vehicles arrived on campus in front of the Great Hall at Wits University, as Witswatersrand University is also known, The Associated Press says, and fired water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas on the protesters.

A student is detained by a South African policeman after he entered a building of Witwatersrand University. Protesters disrupted classes and demanded free tuition. Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

A student is detained by a South African policeman after he entered a building of Witwatersrand University. Protesters disrupted classes and demanded free tuition.

Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Students threw stones at security guards, the AP says.

Protesters also gathered on the lawn and sang struggle songs from the apartheid era, back before most of them were born, Granitz reports. He explains the protests' context and consequences:

"Students have been protesting since September 20th, following the education minister's announcement that universities can raise tuition up to 8 percent. Protests at many universities have been peaceful. But at the University of Cape Town, protesters lobbed petrol bombs. Fire destroyed a library at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. And students at Rhodes University put up burning barricades on campus streets.

"President Jacob Zuma says the damage has cost the government more than $40 million. That's on top of the $1 billion Zuma says the government absorbed last year after similar protests forced a tuition fee freeze."

A South African policeman unsuccessfully tries to apprehend a student from the University of the Witswatersrand, also known as Wits University, on Monday. Student protesters at the prestigious university forced their way into lecture halls and caused many lessons to be abandoned, ratcheting up pressure in a battle over tuition fees. Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

A South African policeman unsuccessfully tries to apprehend a student from the University of the Witswatersrand, also known as Wits University, on Monday. Student protesters at the prestigious university forced their way into lecture halls and caused many lessons to be abandoned, ratcheting up pressure in a battle over tuition fees.

Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

The success of last year's demonstrations set a precedent, one analyst tells Granitz, and now students will "keep demanding more."

"The government subsidizes tuition for poorer students, but undergraduate fees can be has high as $5,000 a year," Granitz says. "That puts it out of reach for many black students. Apartheid ended in 1994, but black South African incomes lag significantly behind those of white South Africans."

On Monday, some libraries and a large science laboratory at Wits University were vacant as the protests disrupted the scheduled classes, the AP says.

Amid growing tension over tuition fees, violent clashes with police have erupted regularly on campuses across South Africa in recent months, and several universities have been closed to avoid further unrest. At Wits University on Monday, protesters throwing rocks were dispersed by riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Amid growing tension over tuition fees, violent clashes with police have erupted regularly on campuses across South Africa in recent months, and several universities have been closed to avoid further unrest. At Wits University on Monday, protesters throwing rocks were dispersed by riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

But a university spokeswoman said the school was open for business, despite the interruptions, Reuters reports.

"We urge students and staff to return to classes this week, even if disruptions occur," the school said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The South African academic year usually wraps up by early November, Granitz says, and it's unclear whether current students will actually finish by then.