Student drops out as tech access issues hinder his learning

Senzo Mkhize was in the middle of writing a test when he lost network coverage. He attempted to log back on to the online platform to finish his test, but it would not allow him to.

He got 15 out 100 for that test.

“The network coverage here is so poor that sometimes I have to go up the mountain just to have a better signal,” he told the Mail & Guardian.

But this is not Mkhize’s only struggle. He did not have money for data for online learning. His mother, the only breadwinner in the household, did not make money during the lockdown because she is self-employed.

On days when Mkhize did have data he would log on to the online learning system only to establish that there was a test that was going to be written the next day or that an assignment was due.


All of this left the fourth-year B.Ed student at the University of Zululand discouraged, and it  forced him to take a difficult decision.

Mkhize deregistered from his course last month. “It was not an easy decision to make but conditions were dictating otherwise,” he says.

Mkhize was not writing tests or submitting assignments and he figured that it would be better to continue with his studies next year. “To tell you the truth, I was really struggling,” says Mkhize, from Empangeni. He says although his family was not happy with this decision, they supported it because they saw what he was going through.

In April, UniZulu announced that it had negotiated zero-rated data with MTN, Telkom and Cell C in so its students could access teaching and learning on its online platform without incurring data costs.

But Mkhize uses Vodacom, so he missed out. In any case, this would not have addressed his problem with the network coverage. He says it took him time to arrive at his decision because he had hoped for an announcement to allow students who were battling to study at home to return to campus.

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande made that announcement last month; on Monday he published directions for the phased-in return of students to campuses.

As of June 1, under level three, higher education institutions are allowed to have 33% of their students return to campus. These students comprise mainly final-year students, those who need laboratories, and all students needing clinical training.

The return to campus came a little too late for students like Mkhize. Although he was a final-year student, he says he was so far behind with his studies that he did not see the possibility of passing.

None of the universities have yet said when the level-three category of students will be back on campus.

However, in the gazette, Nzimande said the institutions need to consider a number of factors, because they allow for the phased-in return of staff and students to campus and residences.

Only staff and students who have received communication from their institution that can return to campus and residences. They will be issued with permits by the institutions.

The directions say that all first-year students in undergraduate programmes will return to campus in level two while the rest of the student population will be back in level one.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

WSU suspends classes and exams to avoid the spread of Covid-19

The university says it has to take the precautionary measures because 26 students have tested positive on its East London campus

Entrepreneurs strike Covid gold

Some enterprising people found ways for their ventures to survive the strictest lockdown levels

Q&A Sessions: ‘My north star is the patient’

Rhulani Nhlaniki is Pfizer’s cluster lead for sub-Saharan Africa. As Pfizer starts phase III of the clinical trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, he tells Malaikah Bophela that if it is successful, the company will ensure the vaccine will be available to everyone who needs it

No mention of Africa when it comes to US foreign policy

During pre-election debates in the United States, very little has been said on how they view one of the world’s largest markets — which, in turn, is determined to come into its own

World of vaccines is a ‘fiendishly’ complex one

It is important that Africa, along with other regions of the Global South, builds its own vaccine-manufacturing capacity

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Baby Awa: The miracle baby born on a boat fleeing...

More than 300 000 people in the north of the country have been displaced by militants who ransack villages and then burn them down.

Five suspects arrested in Senzo Meyiwa case

Police minister Bheki Cela announced on Monday that his team has arrested five suspects who were allegedly involved in the killing of former Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa.

EFF eyes municipalities ahead of 2021 local government elections

EFF leader Julius Malema says the party is preparing to govern in many municipalities from next year. It is also launching a programme to defend the rights of farm workers

WSU suspends classes and exams to avoid the spread of...

The university says it has to take the precautionary measures because 26 students have tested positive on its East London campus
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday