University of South Africa (Unisa) students are set to get a major boost ahead of Unisa’s May/June 2020 examinations, courtesy of a groundbreaking partnership between Unisa and mobile telecommunications company MTN, the university revealed.

The two organisations recently concluded a business agreement that would see all currently registered Unisa students receive 30GB of data per month (10GB anytime and 20GB night time) for a period of two months from mid-May to mid-July 2020, Unisa said in a statement.

The full details of the agreement, including the procedure to access the offer, would be provided to students soon.

MTN Uganda, the country’s largest telecoms firm, has eliminated some charges on its mobile money platform. Photo: File

The free data to all currently registered students during this period was a necessary and timely intervention by the university to create an enabling environment for students who would sit the non-venue-based exams. These exams would start on May 25, and it was vital that students had access to sufficient data and connectivity to successfully complete their exams, the statement said.

Unisa’s contribution, worth R59.72 million over the two month period, was unique and unprecedented, with Unisa offering about 24 million gigabytes during this time to a student body of about 390,000. 

While the free data access had been provided specifically as an intervention to facilitate the easy completion of the May/June exams, students could 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, and preparations for the online exams.  

Unisa principal and vice-chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya said the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the associated interventions by government and institutions alike had, among others, necessitated the rapid introduction of online modes of doing business across many spheres of society, including in the higher education sector.

Picture: AP

Even though Unisa had always been an open distance and e-learning (ODeL) university, the Covid-19 pandemic had compelled it to reconsider some of its academic activities that still required physical application, such as venue-based exams and the submission of hard copy assignments, and confine these strictly to online application.

“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,” Makhanya said.

Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

MTN Business chief enterprise officer Wanda Matandela said: “We are proud to partner with Unisa on this important initiative. At MTN, we believe in delivering the benefits of a modern, connected life to all South Africans, and this partnership allowed us to collaborate in the interest of enabling continuous learning for the benefit of their students at this difficult time.”