Haven't heard about South Africa's gripping protests? 11 quick points will get you up to speed.

An amazing thing happened in South Africa this month when the government tried to raise university tuition.

Students fought back. And they won.


A demonstration against fee hikes in Johannesburg on Oct. 22, 2015. Photo by Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images.

Over the past few weeks, thousands of students flooded the streets, voicing their frustration with a proposed hike in tuition fees. The movement gained steam when the hashtag #FeesMustFall started trending on Twitter. Next stop: some serious international attention for their cause.

The student movement became so vocal and widespread that on Oct. 23, 2015, South African President Jacob Zuma agreed to freeze tuition increases at public universities for the next year.

That's right: They fought, and they won. For all of you students in the U.S. (or anywhere in the world) facing a mountain of student-loan debt, this is a pretty inspiring moment.

The protests are about way more than just college costs, though, and we'll get to that in a minute.

Here are the 11 things you need to know about the movement (and why it isn't over yet):

1. It all started at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand (known as "Wits") after a proposed a tuition hike.

Students were outraged when the government proposed a 10.5% fee increase.

A young woman marches through the Wits campus on Oct. 21. Photo by Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images.

2. Protesters were particularly upset because they felt the higher costs would disproportionately affect black students.

South Africa may have overcome apartheid in 1994, but that didn't lead to economic equality between races. According to South Africa's 2011 census, the average annual income for black households amounted to roughly $8,700, which was about one-sixth of what white households earned.

The New York Times reports that tuition at Wits ranged from $2,400 to $3,500 in 2015. And some other public universities in South Africa are more expensive.

Protesters on the Wits campus. Photo by Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images.

3. There was a serious ripple effect, with classes at several universities canceled due to demonstrations.

The cancellations were especially disruptive because exams were set to begin in the coming weeks. Some universities remained closed at the start of the week.


4. The protests weren't always peaceable.

On Oct. 21, police fired tear gas at students who stormed the gates of the country's parliament in Cape Town. During a rally two days later outside government offices in Pretoria — the country's de facto capital — a small group of demonstrators threw rocks at police, and authorities responded with stun guns and water cannons.

Most recently, police fired stun grenades and arrested a student during a protest at Wits on Oct. 28.

Students from the University of Cape Town clash with police after they forced their way into the South African parliament on Oct. 21. Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images.

5. Three women are leaders in the protest movement — and are winning admiration.

The incoming student council president at Wits, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, has been a leading voice of the movement.

"The youth have been saying that a revolution is coming, and indeed we are at the door of it if not in it already," she told Destiny Man, a South African men's magazine.

A series of three mini-profiles in South Africa's City Press highlights the work of Mkhatshwa alongside two other leaders: Shaeera Kalla, the outgoing student council president at Wits, and Jodi Williams, a political science student at Stellenbosch University.

“In social justice movements, most of the time leadership positions are hijacked by men," she told City Press. "We are turning the tables."



6. This is about more than just tuition.

In March, students at the University of Cape Town defaced a statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes and went on to protest until it was removed from campus. The goal? Student activists feel it's time to "decolonize" education throughout the country, and the current demonstrations are a part of that movement.

The statue is removed on April 9. Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images.

Photo by Charlie Shoemaker/Getty Images.

7. Youth activists want these protests to make history.

Students called the Oct. 23 march on Pretoria "historic." And with more than 10,000 demonstrators attending, they might just be right.

Writing for CNN, Wits graduate Basani Baloyi and researcher Gilad Isaacs compared the action to an apartheid-era youth uprising in Soweto, a black urban enclave in Johannesburg, where students fought a landmark battle for educational rights.

"Not since the Soweto Uprising of 1976 have this many youth arisen to demand the right to quality and accessible education."


8. The economic divide is a big part of the problem.

University fee increases are nothing new in South Africa; BBC reports that annual tuition hikes in South Africa range between 7% and 14%. But broader economic factors could be playing a part in students getting tired of those ongoing increases.

Since the fall of apartheid, the incomes of whites and Asians have grown significantly while black incomes have been "nearly flat," according to Pew Research Center.

Students from Stellenbosch University protest against fee hikes on Oct. 23. Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images.

9. The protests could provide a boost to opposition political parties.

Since the end of apartheid, the African National Congress has pretty much run the show when it comes to South African politics. Now, opposition groups are hoping to capitalize on the frustrations of protesters and make headway during municipal elections next year.

A sign outside the ACN headquarters on Oct. 22. Photo by Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images.

10. This movement has spread far beyond South Africa.

Supporters of the movement have gathered in London, New York, and even Duke University in North Carolina.




11. The students? They aren't done yet.

President Zuma announced on Oct. 23 that he would freeze fees, which is a major victory for the movement:

"Government understands the difficulty faced by students from poor households and urges all affected to allow the process to unfold to find long-term solutions in order to ensure access to education by all students."

But some students are vowing to continue their activism until the government provides free education to all South Africans.


Even if the #FeesMustFall movement cools down in the days ahead, this doesn't look like the end of youth activism in South Africa.

There is an enormous economic divide along racial lines in South Africa right now. And until that's been addressed in a more comprehensive way, young people will continue to demand justice.

via ABC and Bee Gees / YouTube

A year ago a woman in Pearland, Texas helped save her husband's life because of her quick thinking and the sweet, four-on-the-floor disco beat of the Bee Gees.

After finishing a two-mile run with her husband Quan, Ganesa Collins watched him fall to the ground. "We sat on the bench, and he was in front of me," Collins told ABC. "I was standing behind and stretching, and he just went face forward. His head hit the dirt."

She quickly called 911 and the operator said he was having a heart attack.

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via ABC and Bee Gees / YouTube

A year ago a woman in Pearland, Texas helped save her husband's life because of her quick thinking and the sweet, four-on-the-floor disco beat of the Bee Gees.

After finishing a two-mile run with her husband Quan, Ganesa Collins watched him fall to the ground. "We sat on the bench, and he was in front of me," Collins told ABC. "I was standing behind and stretching, and he just went face forward. His head hit the dirt."

She quickly called 911 and the operator said he was having a heart attack.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."