Student dies in protests as university hikes its fees

A student died during a demonstration at l’Université Officielle de Bukavu (Official University of Bukavu) in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) when protesters took to the streets to oppose the university’s attempt to hike tuition fees.

The institution’s planned fee increase did not align with an earlier government decision to lower and harmonise fees across the public university sector starting in January 2022.

On 2 April, students, armed with machetes and sticks, stormed the main entrance of the university and damaged infrastructure. They also appealed to the government to intervene, saying they could not understand why the university had gone against the official decision to reduce fees.

As the protest intensified, a security guard allegedly injured one of the students, who was rushed to the nearby health facility where he died, according to university officials. The deceased was identified as Jean-Paul Rusumba Birhakabulirwa, a third-year law student.

The protesters accused the university’s students’ association of conniving with the university management to increase the tuition fees, as it did little to prevent the hike.

However, in a statement by the students’ association, Alfred Mutesi, the university’s student spokesman, said the university should have consulted the association before publishing the fee increase.

Following the death of the student, protesters vandalised the office of the students’ association, setting fire to furniture and other items inside.

Academic activity at the university has been on hold since 1 April.

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