Free data lifeline for students

Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.

The online learning platforms and websites of all public universities and TVET colleges have been zero-rated, while NSFAS-funded students will soon be receiving substantial free data bundles – all in an effort to ensure that every student is given a fair opportunity to complete the 2020 academic year.

Blade Nzimande, minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, announced these developments at a media briefing on Sunday, May 24.

The minister said all post school education and training (PSET) sector stakeholders had been hard at work on the plan to “save the academic year (and) save lives”.

Remote learning

Primarily, this plan revolves around the continuation of remote, off-campus learning and teaching through online and digital platforms, with students given the necessary technological support they need to access and make full use of these platforms.

Nzimande explained: “All 26 public universities have developed detailed strategies for remote, multi-modal teaching and learning, which are now ready for full implementation from June 1.” Institutions have committed to ensuring that students are all given a fair opportunity to complete the 2020 academic year, he added.

Free data bundles

According to the plan, the official online learning websites of all public universities and TVET colleges have now been zero-rated. This means that students can access these websites, portals and the content on them, free of any data charges.

In addition, further to negotiations with all mobile network operators, NSFAS-funded students will receive free education data bundles consisting of 10 gigs daytime and 20 gigs night time data. This will enable students to pay for additional learning content not covered by the zero-rated websites.

Details on how to access these offers would be provided in the next few weeks.

Uninterrupted funding

All state-funded students will continue receiving financial support, despite the suspension of on-campus activities during the national lockdown. And with digital learning devices and materials now covered by NSFAS, more students will soon have wider access to learning resources.

On-campus activities will be gradually and incrementally phased in from the start of level 3 of the national lockdown (June 1), with selected students – making up no more than 33% of each institution’s student body – allowed to return to campuses and residences.