Fri Feb 26, 2016 09:40AM
Students, next to a security guard, look through the entrance to the Science Center at the North-West University in Mahikeng South Africa, Feb. 25, 2016. (Photo by AP)
Students, next to a security guard, look through the entrance to the Science Center at the North-West University in Mahikeng South Africa, Feb. 25, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Authorities at a South African university have called on students to abandon the premises following a move by them to torch some buildings there during a violent protest.

Students at North-West University set fire to an administration building and science center at the campus in the city of Mahikeng, also called Mafikeng, on Wednesday night and were ordered to leave the place on Thursday.

The violence is said to have broken out when the inauguration of a new student council was disrupted by some students, who were attacked by private security officers that used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.

A previous student council at the university called for Afrikaans to be removed as a teaching language, saying it unfairly benefits white students.

Over the past days, clashes have erupted between black and white students over the use of Afrikaans, which is considered to be the language of the white oppressors during apartheid rule, or racial segregation, which lasted from late 1940s to the 1990s.

The dissolved council also wanted those students who cannot pay their tuition to be allowed to continue their studies.

South Africa has been the scene of regular student protests that often call for lower tuition fees, more housing for students and also removing remnants of the country’s racist past.

The call for abandoning the university left some students stranded on streets.

“Students have nowhere to go. They are just roaming around the streets of Mahikeng,” said a student, adding that the international students of the university have faced “severe problems” over the move.

A student walks through the charred Science Center at the North-West University in Mahikeng, South Africa, February 25, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the institution said that authorities have made arrangements for students to camp at a nearby civic hall until they can go back home.

Denouncing the violence at the university, South African President Jacob Zuma said no amount of fury “should drive students to burn their own university and deny themselves and others education.”

Back in October, South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said the government could no longer afford to provide free education for poor students. University administrators also say they have no choice but to raise fees in order to maintain academic standards.

Students argue that the government plan would further hurt African students, who had already been struggling with limited access to universities during decades of apartheid.