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S. African police fire teargas at protesting students

CAPE TOWN, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- South African police on Wednesday fired rubber bullets and teargas at protesting students as a "campus uprising" over tuition fee hikes was gaining momentum across the country.

Incidents of violence were reported at several universities. At the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Eastern Cape Province, students clashed with riot police who responded by firing rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the students, injuring several of them.

Police tried to make their way to the university campus, but the entrances were barricaded by students.

In Cape Town, thousands of students gathered outside Parliament where Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene was making his mid-term budget speech. The students urged the minister to allocate enough education funding.

The protesters were trying to get into Parliament after breaking the gates, but they were held back by police.

The doors inside the National Assembly were barricaded by police.

"Fees must fall!" -- the students were chanting as they planned to stage a sit-in.

Students were throwing water bottles at police. "It was chaotic and the situation seems to be out of control," a witness said.

Students across the country intensified their protest on Wednesday despite a pledge by the government that tuition fee increases will be capped at six percent.

At a meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday between Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande and representative delegations of university vice-chancellors, council chairs, students and workers, an agreement was reached, under which tuition fee hikes will not exceed six percent.

Students have rejected the agreement, insisting on zero-percent increase. Some students want tuition fees to decrease since they can't even afford the current rate.

The protests have paralysed almost all major universities, with classes suspended indefinitely and campuses shut down.

The tuition fee hikes came as a result of the government's deduction of education funding.

The SA National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) reportedly is short of 51 billion rand (about about 3.9 billion U.S. dollars) to fund poor students.

Meanwhile, calls for the resignation of Nzimande kept growing. the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President Collen Maine blamed Nzimande for the wave of student protests.

Maine criticised Nzimande for his inaction to respond to the protest which began at Wits University in Johannesburg last week.

Also on Wednesday, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) led a protest outside Nzimande's office in Pretoria to press its demand for his resignation.

"We are gathering here today to make it clear that there is a crisis, and he (Nzimande) must take full responsibility for it," DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Yusuf Cassim said.

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