SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 13, 2022

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of KwaZulu-Natal

Region & Country:Southern Africa | South Africa

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 13, 2022, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) property was set on fire and police fired rubber bullets and tear gas during a student protest.

In early June, UKZN had suspended 300 cleaning staff in response to a May 28 memorandum they had submitted concerning their work conditions.

The following week, on June 13, students held a protest at UKZN to demand the reinstatement of the staff, complaining that their residences had not been cleaned since the staff were suspended. During the demonstration, students blocked the campus entrances with burning tires. Two university vehicles and a security guard building were also set on fire. Police reportedly fired rubber bullets and tear gas in an apparent attempt to disperse students. Two students sustained injuries and were hospitalized.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about student violence during a campus protest. University staff, faculty, and students have a right to publicly express concerns about the university environment without fear of dismissal. However, while students and other protesters have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they also have a responsibility to exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. The destruction of campus property harms the ability of higher education communities to safely and adequately conduct research, teaching, and other academic activities. State authorities have a responsibility to protect higher education communities, investigate threats, and hold perpetrators responsible. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)