Back in April the University of South Africa (Unisa) made news when it announced that its traditionally venue-based examinations would be replaced by online equivalents. While this was mostly welcomed as a way to assess students while shielding them from COVID-19, it raised the question of how many students would access the exams and other study materials.

Usually students without home connectivity would travel to one of the many Unisa campuses to use the computers and internet connections there, with the campuses closed as part of lockdown this presented a massive problem to the planned online communications.

To solve this Unisa has partnered with MTN to provide all registered students with 30GB of data per month. This will last for two months between mid-May and mid-July, covering the May / June exam period (which has been extended into July).

The 30GB are divided into two portions: 10GB which can be used at any time, and 20GB during the night.

The exact details of this provision of data and how students can access it will apparently be communicated soon.

“As a caring and responsible university, driven by strong values of Ubuntu/Botho and being fully cognisant of the dire socio-economic conditions that many of our students find themselves in, we took a considered decision that all our students must have access to data, with the university carrying the cost, so that they are enabled to write their exams and succeed in their studies. Our partnership with MTN is also ideal in this regard, not only because of the favourable rate they have given us, but most importantly because of the size of their footprint and their reach,” states Professor Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at Unisa.

We actually have a detailed interview with Makhanya in the works, so check back soon for that.

Back to the free data and a press release shared with us highlights some staggering numbers about the partnership.

Unisa’s contribution to the deal apparently amounts to R59.72 million over the two-month period. This money will provide 24 million gigabytes of data to around 390 000 students.

With South Africa recently rated 148th out of 228 countries when it comes to the price of mobile data, these numbers make a bit more sense.

“While the free data access has been provided specifically as an intervention to facilitate the easy completion of the May/June 2020 examinations, students may use the data and connectivity during this period to conduct other academic activities such as the submission of assignments online, online contact with the university as well as preparations for the online examinations,” reads a press release sent to us.

While students are still a bit in the dark for their exams when it comes to the exact steps required of them, as well as a mysterious app which has not been fully revealed, at least the problem of data has been addressed.