Minister of Education Dr Blade Nzimande said earlier that the department recognised that the cost of connectivity remained a huge barrier for students who want to use the digital learning mode as part of the multimodal and remote learning.
However, he said they have already struck a deal with all network providers and mobile network operators to have zero-rated educational content sites of the public universities, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Community Education and Training (CET) Colleges, including Agricultural and Nursing Colleges.
“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,” he explained.
He said they are now working on making “Educational Data Bundles” available to all National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) students in universities and TVET Colleges that they can use to pay for additional content not covered through the zero-rating.
“I am pleased to announce that we have successfully negotiated with all mobile network operators very favourable rates for our NSFAS students, including the Funza Lushaka students who will receive 10GB daytime and 20GB night-time data for three months, starting from 1 June till the end of August, as subsidised by government.”
The department will then give detailed information on how to access these offers.
However, government is currently not in a position to subsidise students who fall within the so-called “missing middle” category and those who study in private institutions.
“We, however, appeal to mobile network operators to work with institutions to also offer affordable packages to such students. I am however working towards the establishment of an affordable higher education loan scheme involving the private sector.”
He has urged NSFAS and the Funza Lushaka students to register their cellphone numbers with their respective institutions.
“We advise that during this period, they must also not change their sim-cards so as to enable network operators, through their institutions, to load data to their devices.”
Nzimande has also stressed that this data must be only used for educational purposes.