Call for probe into poor cellphone coverage across SA

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Universities have proposed an immediate investigation to determine cellular coverage throughout South Africa and the barriers occasioned by the internet and municipal infrastructures in preventing students from online teaching and learning.

University of KwaZulu-Natal deputy vice-chancellor of research, entrepreneurship and innovation Professor Deresh Ramjugernath said going online was a must and that the sustainability of universities nationwide depended on making the move.

Ramjugernath highlighted poor internet reception and students not being as tech-savvy “as we would like them to be” as key barriers, both in South Africa and in many other countries throughout the world.

Ramjugernath was speaking at a nationwide Zoom workshop under the theme “Sharing practice to move online with entrepreneurship teaching methods and student experiences”.

The discussion was joined by 108 participants representing 17 universities in South Africa. Participants had the opportunity to share experiences and brainstorm the new socio-economic realities of the current situation: online teaching and learning.

Ramjugernath said students from rural areas, especially those who came from quintile 1-3 school backgrounds, had difficulties in accessing the internet, and even struggled to access 2G networks.

He believed that some institutes had the technology to move fully online, but that student internet access and municipal infrastructure proposed bigger barriers.

“The only way to salvage the 2020 academic year – should scenario two or three come into action – is by moving online.”

UWC’s Professor Richard Shambare said there were various barriers and opportunities to consider for tertiary undergraduate teaching of entrepreneurship and student experiences thereof.

Shambare believed that now was a good time for entrepreneurship teachers to reinvent their curriculum to embrace a future technology-orientated world. “Such a curriculum would provide business solutions to socio-economic problems and contribute to value creation of current social problems following Covid-19.”

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the university was providing prepaid data to all students who have valid South African cell numbers as part of extensive support measures put in place for online learning.

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