Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande on Saturday announced that students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and the Funza Lushaka bursary would receive 10 GB daytime and 20 GB night-time data for three months subsidised by government.
This would begin from 1 June till the end of August.
Nzimande made the announcement at a media briefing on his department’s response to the government’s risk-adjusted strategy aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said his department had successfully negotiated with all mobile network operators these “very favourable rates” that would be subsidised by government.
“In weeks to come, we will give detailed information on how to access these offers,” Nzimande said.
He urged NSFAS and the Funza Lushaka bursary students to ensure that they registered their cell-phone numbers with their respective institutions. He also advised them not to change their sim-cards to ensure that mobile network operators, through their institutions, could load the data to their devices.
Nzimande also cautioned students not to use the data for content not related to their academic studies.
“I just want to emphasise that this data that needy students will receive must be used for dedicated online educational platforms for teaching and learning as approved by institutions,” he said.
Mobile network operators were already providing zero-rated educational content sites of public universities, TVET and Community Education and Training Colleges, including Agricultural and Nursing colleges.
“This is a huge step forward and highlighted the effective collaboration between the Department and the telecommunications sector. Zero-rating means that access to institutional websites will be free, although some of the embedded content like YouTube and videos will be charged for,” Nzimande said.
The minister acknowledged that students who fell within the so-called “missing middle” category – as well as students in private institutions – also needed support in accessing data for their online learning.
However, he said government was unable to subsidise their data.
“We, however, appeal to mobile network operators to work with institutions to also offer affordable packages to such students. I am however working towards establishment of an affordable higher education loan scheme involving the private sector,” he said.