29 May 2020

Absa Group has joined forces with Universities South Africa (USAf) and contributed R5 million to provide appropriate learning devices and mobile data to university students to assist with their online or remote learning.

This contribution will benefit students from six, mostly historically disadvantaged universities, across five provinces. The benefitting universities are: the Vaal University of Technology (200 devices); the University of KwaZulu-Natal (200 devices); the University of the Western Cape (200 devices); the University of Limpopo (100 devices); the University of Venda (100 devices) as well as the University of the Free State (200 devices). The receiving institutions, which by now have identified the deserving students and the extent of need, will devise their own distribution strategies.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought life around the world to a near standstill, with nationwide closures currently in force in 150 countries.  In a matter of weeks, the pandemic has changed education, forcing millions of learners into home-schooling and online learning. Recent data released by UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows that 68% of the world’s enrolled student population is presently staying away from schools and universities.

In South Africa, schools, vocational training colleges and universities have similarly been forced to either suspend academic activity or resort to emergency teaching via online platforms. The scale and speed of the closures represent an unprecedented challenge for the education sector, and the full impact is yet to be fully understood.

Given that the Ministry of Education, Science and Innovation has undertaken to meet the laptop needs of the NSFAS-funded students across institutions, Absa’s contribution will be channelled to assist students in the missing-middle category.

“Absa’s contribution undoubtedly eliminates a major challenge for at least 1000 vulnerable students at our universities,” Professor Ahmed Bawa, USAf’s Chief Executive Officer says. “If we are to succeed in our resolve to enable every single student to complete the 2020 academic year, then providing them with these devices and data is inevitable.” 

“We have a well-established commitment to provide access to higher learning across the continent. Remote learning is now a necessity, and there are many students who do not have the means to access their education in this way. We decided to provide this additional support to students who otherwise would be severely disadvantaged during this academic year and in the future,” says Daniel Mminele, Absa Group Chief Executive.

Absa’s contribution is a response to USAf’s ongoing fundraising to assist students in distress with tuition fees, on the one hand, and with appropriate devices to help them navigate the remote teaching/ learning terrain, on the other. Additional fundraising is seeking to support much-needed capacity building in academics.