VIDEO: Tensions rise as thousands of students demonstrate in South Africa

VIDEO: Tensions rise as thousands of students demonstrate in South Africa

Thousands of South African university students have converged at the country's main government complex to protest over tuition fee rises.

The students gathered on a large lawn at the foot of the Union Buildings in South Africa's administrative capital, Pretoria.

It was the largest demonstration in more than a week of protests against tuition fee increases planned for next year and among the biggest since South Africa rejected white minority rule in 1994.

Many students accuse the government of not doing enough to support university students and their families who are struggling to pay bills.

South African President Jacob Zuma has met student leaders and university managers inside the Union Buildings.

He and other leaders of the ruling African National Congress have said they are sympathetic to student concerns and welcome their protests, as long as they are peaceful.

A police helicopter flew overhead as some students pushed and pulled on a fence preventing them from getting closer to the government offices.

"Stop corruption, fund students," read one student placard. Another said: "Dear Mr President: How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?"

Costs vary, but annual tuition for undergraduate students in South Africa runs to several thousands of dollars at some universities.

That amount, combined with textbook and accommodation costs, is a burden for many poor students in a country with a wide gulf between the affluent and those with limited means.

The protests began last week at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, which later dropped plans for a 10.5% tuition fees hike in 2016 and has suspended classes until at least next week because of the disruption.

Many universities are in exam season, and there have been reports of protesters going into lecture halls and forcing some students to stop taking exams.

On Wednesday, a student protest outside parliament in Cape Town turned violent and 30 demonstrators were arrested.

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