A University of Cape Town (UCT) study has revealed that many students lack adequate resources for remote learning.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, tertiary education institutions moved lectures online in a bid to save the academic year. But while virtual classes may have become the global norm, many South African students lack access to the internet.
Researchers assessed the number of households within each municipality that had access to three remote learning resources.
The recent study suggested that household access to electricity, a stable internet connection, and a suitable device were likely to dictate the quality of students’ remote learning.
More than half of both university and TVET college students reside in municipalities where fewer than 10% of households had access to all three resources.
The researchers at UCT’s Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit said although institutions and residences had implemented a phased return of the most vulnerable students, those who had not yet been able to return faced continued learning constraints.
The study found the majority of university students resided in municipalities where more than 85% of households had access to electricity.
However, fewer than 30% of households in all municipalities across South Africa had internet access.
The research also showed that TVET college students were more likely than university students to face remote learning barriers as the majority of them reside in municipalities in which fewer than 10% of the homes had access to an internet connection.
Half of university students live in municipalities where between 30 and 47% of households had access to a device like a tablet or a laptop from which to work. And by comparison, only one-third of TVET students reside in municipalities with similar device access levels.
Researchers said the fact that two-thirds of TVET students reside in municipalities where fewer than a third of households own a device was staggering.
And although some universities had provided vulnerable students with laptops, the distribution of laptops by some institutions, as well as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), was delayed.
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