Pushing and shoving turned deadly and a stampede erupted at a South African university, killing one woman and injuring at least 20 others.
The trampling happened as several thousand prospective students and their parents stood in line, vying for fewer than 1,000 open spots at the University of Johannesburg. The crowd of families surged when the gates opened.
The results were deadly.
“They were pushing and pushing,’’ 18-year-old accounting student Katleho Mphatsoe told The New York Times. “Even the gates fell over. Many people were injured.’’
Gloria Sekwena, who was helping her son Kgositsile apply at the university, was killed in the rush. The university said it would pay Sekwena’s tuition for his choice of study.
Roughly 85,000 applicants vied for about 11,000 seats in the university this year, officials said. That number was up from slightly more than 60,000 last year.
The more than 8-to-1 ratio was largely driven by South Africa’s staggering unemployment rates.
There are roughly 600,000 unemployed college graduates in the country, according to a report by Adcorp, a temporary staffing firm.
But estimates show management, engineering, law, finance, accounting and medicine fields growing in the country.
The prospective students saw an education as a ticket to employment at a time when the wealth gap in the country is widening.
"Business owners' share of national income increased from 39.9 percent in 1995 to 47.2 percent in 2011, while employees' share has correspondingly declined," Adcorp labor market analyst Loane Sharp said.
It is also quickly becoming a problem for the youth in the country as well. More than 70 percent of the young workers in South Africa are jobless, according to Adcorp.
The economic crisis and late enrollment procedures at the university have created a perfect storm of frustration amid the economic turmoil in the nation.
“There just aren’t enough places for everybody,” 22-year-old prospective student Karabo Dihba said. “What are we supposed to do?”