Usaf: Data, online tools for students must be given priority in 2021

Usaf: Data, online tools for students must be given priority in 2021

Universities South Africa (Usaf) says students must be equipped for online learning in order to avoid a repeat of last year’s disruptions to the academic calendar.

wits students threaten legal action against police
Photo: Slindelo Masikane

he organisation, which represents all 26 of the country’s universities, says students cannot afford more disruptions and delays.


Usaf CEO Ahmed Bawa says despite the provision of equipment, data must be a top priority.


“That is seemingly the one thing that has occurred in the last six months or so. The Nsfas process for the procurement of devices has been completed, and what that means is that all Nsfas grantees will receive a device before the start of the academic year.


“That is the huge advance on where we were last year, but of course it leaves another very serious issue which is the issue of availability of data.


“What will now happen is that there will be renewed negotiations between the department and the mobile network operators, and between the universities and the mobile network operators, to try and ensure that the affordable data for universities to offer students is made available again."


The registration process at the various universities is expected to start between March and April.

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Bawa says plans are in place to curb the number of student dropouts.


“The evidence we have at the moment, and we don't have all the numbers yet, is that there was a very high participation of students in online learning. So, until such time that we get from the universities much more details about how many students dropped out and so on, we think that this year will be better than last year because the universities are much more organised for this year than they were last year.


“And of course, one of the big challenges we faced last year was to try understand to make campus safe again for the return of students and staff. But this year all those systems are in place already, so it is really about now trying to ensure that those students who can't access online learning wherever they are, they can come back on to campus, but use technology to study.”

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