South Africa: Students Will Return On an Unequal Footing Because of Poor Remote-Learning Access


Much has been written about how the Covid-19 lockdown and the subsequent shutdown of campuses have revolutionised tertiary education through remote learning. But given South Africa's vast inequalities, including inequalities in access to the internet and to devices, the proverbial playing field is anything but level.

South African university and college (tertiary education) students will be welcomed back to campuses around the country as lockdown Level 1 takes effect. However, the journey to this point has been fraught with challenges and students are likely to return on an unequal footing. Institutions have shown varying degrees of capability to roll out remote learning, necessitating an extension of the academic year; the National Student Financial Aid Scheme has been under fire for failing to provide students with laptops as promised; and students have been battling with an inadequate supply of data to access online learning materials.

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Additionally, glaring structural inequalities shape the household environment in which students have been expected to learn new academic material online. Household access to electricity, a stable internet connection and a suitable device off which to learn can be considered three minimum...

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