The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has made some progress with providing students with laptops for the 2021 academic year.
This is according to the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande. The Minister said this would not have been possible without universities and TVET colleges playing their part to help students gain access to learning devices.
In order to supply learning devices, NSFAS introduced a central scheme, while universities and TVET colleges put their own systems in place to provide students with laptops. However, there were some universities that did not have schemes in place to help students get laptops.
Minister Nzimande said in these instances, NSFAS was able to step in and ensure that all NSFAS qualifying students were given the option to directly receive an annual learning material allowance. Students were then expected to use this allowance to purchase a device.
The Higher Education Minister said the recorded percentage of students who indicated that they were in need of learning devices ranged from 0% to over 70%. This range was recorded at 18 institutions of higher learning.
In an effort to supply students with learning devices, NSFAS pre-ordered the first batch of 170 000 laptops. These laptops were supplied to NSFAS qualifying students at TVET colleges and universities in February and March 2021. Approximately 160 000 of these laptops will go to university students while the remaining will be given to university students.
Nzimande said the allocation of laptops is based on applications received from students. This means, more TVET college students than university students indicated a need for laptops.
“As of 1 September 2021, the service provider delivered 51 976 laptops to the TVET sector. An additional 10 799 laptops were delivered on 22 September 2021,” Nzimande said.
He also added that TVET Branch is currently working together with the South African College Principals Organisation to provide zero-rated data for students and staff. This is after conducting a report which showed that data bundles remain expensive and negatively affect the online learning experience of students.
“Most universities report between 95% to 100% of students who have access to data. The zero-rating of departmental and public institutions’ websites is 97% completed. This is following the directions issued under Regulation 10 (of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) (Government Notice No 417 of 26 March 2020). Service providers providing zero-rating include electronic communications service licensees, i.e. mobile network operators and internet service providers,” the Minister explained.