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

Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: ‘I should have fought harder for SA vaccine’...

Professor Salim Abdool Karim talks to Nicolene de Wee about his responsibility as head of the ministerial advisory committee tasked with guiding the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Do you have to take the Covid-19 vaccine or not?

The South African law does not make it mandatory for citizens to be vaccinated, and the same will apply for Covid-19 immunisation. But experts say people still have the responsibility not to act recklessly — and they should follow Covid-19 health protocols

More top stories

Zuma won’t appear before Zondo commission on Monday, say his...

Last year the commission asked the Constitutional Court to force the former president to appear. Although ruling has not been made, the summons remains valid, but Zuma’s lawyers say they won’t honour it

Molefe blames Ramaphosa for Eskom’s woes in statement to Zondo...

Brian Molefe guns for Cyril Ramaphosa, alleging that the president’s relationship with Glencore was only a ploy to siphon money out of Eskom

Death and anxiety rife at matric marking centres as schools...

Education department delays 2021 academic year as the Covid-19 death and infection rates rise rapidly, but assures 2020 matrics that results will be released on time

Zondo commission: Lynne Brown reportedly says ‘eish’ when told of...

More allegations against Jacob Zuma put before the state capture commission, as the questions the former president will have to answer when he appears next week continue to stack up
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…