For many students across South Africa, the national Lockdown has also exposed the lack of infrastructure to enable remote learning from home. Some students struggled because they live in places that do not have the infrastructure that will support their learning while away from the University. Such infrastructure includes data, computers, electricity, and smartphones. This is more so for students in universities such as MUT where the majority of these students register. This week, first year students are rejoicing as they resume their lectures after returning to campus as part of the phased return to campus.
Two such students are Nokwanda Masondo and Mpatho Sibiya both from Ulundi, north of KwaZulu-Natal. Being away from the University since March as a result of the national Lockdown had disruptive effects on the students’ academic progress. Nokwanda said she was able to study at home. She did assignments using her own data. Mpatho was not able to do anything. She had no data and her home was crowded since the Lockdown prohibited movement.
“I could not focus, there used to be lots of noise,” Mpatho said. She said being away from the University also meant that she and her classmates could not work in groups, and that at home there was a lot to deal with. “Woza uzopheka”, would be an instruction, even when she was trying to do her University work.
Nokwanda says she is still anxious about the Coronavirus. Fortunately, MUT has scheduled training for all returning students although some of these students are yet to attend the training. They are aware that the academic year has been extended to March next year, which is the other reason some students are still anxious. Mpatho says come December, they might not be able to focus. “We are used to being with our families in December. This year will be different,” said Mpatho.
Students are also aware of the COVID-19 regulations and measures that were taken by the university to install sanitising stations across the University. The distribution of masks is ongoing and students are aware that they need to wear masks at all times and to maintain the required social distance.
As for the rest of the academic year, they are going to do their best. “We are going to focus on our studies, even though the situation is not so good,” said Mpatho. They say they feel the pressure because there is a lot of work to do.