The COVID-19 pandemic has forced every sector to rethink how it operates and the education sector is not immune.

While a majority of schools have reopened around the country this week, many parents, learners, teachers and staff are concerned about the risks of going back to school.

We’ve seen a number of schools adopt a multi-faceted approach to education and today we’re chatting about how a university is taking a similar tact.

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has been putting measures in place to accommodate learners who may not be able to get to university for whatever the reason may be.

One of those measures is the Wits Mobile Computing Bank which grants qualifying students a notebook in a temporary basis so that learning can continue.

Curious about this initiative, Hypertext spoke to the dean of Student Affairs at Wits, Jerome September.

The dean tells us that to date, almost 5 000 students have received a notebook through the initiative.

“The laptops were bought at a reduced price and were provided on loan to students in need. Some funders came on board to fund the laptops,” September tells us.

In order to qualify for a notebook, a student would have to meet the following criteria:

  • Students registered for a full-time degree in 2020
  • NSFAS funded and “missing middle” students with a family income of less than R600 000 annually. Bursary/scholarship funded students who have not received devices from their funders
  • Students who do not have their own device, or who do not have access to a device.

The university added that notebooks were assigned in order of priority with final year undergraduate students being first in line, first year students next, undergraduate students and finally post graduate students getting final dibs.

Delivery of the notebooks was handled by the South African Post Office while Wits staff members assisted with setting the notebooks up and pre-loading the notebooks with course material.

Wits tells us that the devices will be on loan to the students for the duration of the year and that the notebooks will have to be returned in good working order.

“The devices will be loaned to the students until the end of the academic year and will be charged to their fee accounts. The charges will be reversed if the device is returned in good working order at the end of the academic year,” the dean explained.

As regards the charges mentioned above we have asked for more clarity in this regard and should Wits respond we will be sure to update this story with that information.

In addition to the notebooks, Wits and Vodacom announced last week that students would receive 30GB of data over the next two months at no cost to the student.

Wits has compiled a list of zero-rated services from the university regardless of which network a student uses. You can find that list of services and URLs here.

As for students heading back to campus, WITS launched its COVID-19 screening app through LogBox. Details and information on how to make use of the app can be found here.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]