Lifestyle & Belief

South Africa: Johannesburg university stampede kills one, injures 22 (VIDEO)


Students queue outside the University of Johannesburg to register for this year's studies on January 10, 2012. This morning a stampede broke out leaving one person dead and at least three critically injured. Aspiring students have been queuing outside the university since the early hours of January 9, hoping to submit late applications. Many had brought umbrellas and chairs and camped there overnight. About 74,000 students will be turned away from the University of Johannesburg this year. Last year, the university processed 85,000 applications for 11,000 first-year spots.



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A stampede by students desperate to enroll at a Johannesburg university has left one woman dead and 22 people injured,with  several of them in critical condition.

Thousands of students had lined up to apply for last-minute places at the University of Johannesburg, one of the few schools to accept late applicants in January, the start of the school year in South Africa.

The crowd had waited throughout the night, and the stampede happened early Tuesday morning as gates were opened at the university's Bunting Road campus in the Auckland Park area of Johannesburg.

The victim was said to be the mother of a prospective student, according to the South African Press Association. She has not yet been named.

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There is a shortage of spots for first-year students at South Africa's top universities. Many students apply late after receiving unexpectedly good results in official exams at the end of high school, and are desperate to get in, seeing a university degree as a ticket to a job in a country with 40 percent unemployment.

The University of Johannesburg has 11,000 spots for freshman students, and last year turned away 74,000 prospective students, according to the Star newspaper.

By the early hours of Monday, a mile-long line of students and their parents had formed outside the University of Johannesburg's gates, with many carrying umbrellas to shield themselves from the strong sun. The university said 5,000 applications were received in that one day.

Some witnesses reported a similar stampede Monday when the university gates opened, but no one was killed. 

Students had been alerted to the late application opportunity by emails and text messages from the university.

Following Tuesday's stampede, the university suspended registrations of students, but many waiting parents and students refused to leave. Police and ambulances remained at the scene throughout the day to maintain order. 

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More than 180,000 high school graduates are expected to be turned away from South Africa's nine top universities this year, said the Johannesburg Times.

The youth wing of the ruling African National Congress party released a statement sending "its deepest condolences" to the family of the victim, who "died in pursuit of education for her child," but also criticizing the country's education ministry for a shortage of university spots.

The government "should acknowledge the fact that the inability to institutions of higher learning to admit the entirety of learners who are eligible for higher education is reaching a crisis level," the ANC Youth League statement said.

"The ANC government should ensure that no eligible student is excluded from institutions of higher learning, because such will deepen societal ills of unemployment, poverty, starvation, crime, and inequalities."

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