The laptops were donated to students who are not beneficiaries of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Founded six years ago, the university has over 5 000 students, many of whom are beneficiaries of NSFAS. The donation follows the announcement by Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, that all NSFAS beneficiary students would receive laptops and data to ensure they can continue with online classes during the national lockdown.
However, with some students not qualifying for the scheme and not having the financial means to afford all studying equipment needed, Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso reached out to Gijima Chairman, Mr Robert Gumede, requesting a donation of laptops to assist non-NSFAS funded students. Speaking at the handover ceremony held at UMP’s Mbombela Campus, Professor Mayekiso, was extremely grateful towards Mr Gumede for coming to the rescue during a time of great need.
“When the country was placed under lockdown all campus-based activities were suspended while at the same time there were calls for #NoStudentShouldBeLeftBehind and #SaveTheAcardemicYear. We had to switch to online teaching and learning without any advance warning.”
Fortunately, online teaching and learning has been part of the university’s teaching strategy since its inception in 2016. “We’ve always considered ourselves a 21st century institution; in fact, we embrace technology. Innovation is at the core of our beliefs. We embarked on online teaching and learning on 20 April fully aware of the challenges experienced by our students in terms of access to data and the availability of devices,” she added.
“Despite these challenges, our students responded positively and were participating actively. At the end of April the Minister of Higher Education, Honourable Dr Blade Nzimande, announced that all NSFAS-funded students would receive laptops and data to ensure they can attend online classes during the lockdown. This posed a challenge to us since we wanted all students without devices to be assisted.”
At UMP, 88% of students are funded by NSFAS while others have sponsors who have provided them with laptops, for example the Vice-Chancellors Scholarship. When the university was doing their research they discovered that there are about 320 students who require laptops. The Vice-Chancellor said priority will be given to students who are still studying from home as those who are back on campus have access to computer labs.
Student Representative Council President, Comfort Msimango acknowledged the hard work and dedication the university had put into making the donations a reality.
“My deepest sense of appreciation goes to Gijima, Mr Gumede and UMP staff members for their cooperation and for providing us with academic support during this difficult time. We are fortunate to be backed by proactive and dedicated men and women. I am short of words for their involvement and their willingness to take on the completion of tasks and ensuring that the academic year is saved! A special mention to our respected Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thoko Mayekiso for being the catalyst that stimulates us to do our best; she is a pillar of strength. I’d also like to thank our dedicated lecturers for their untiring efforts to keep the train moving.”
Chief Marketing Officer at Gijima, Ms Roberta Gumede, said the company and the Kena Foundation would like to help the University bridge the gap and assist more students.
“We’d like to help the University of Mpumalanga build more inspiring leaders in our beautiful province. We hope that one day some of the students who will be receiving laptops today, will assist other students in the future. In that way it makes this donation a lifetime contribution from Gijima and the Foundation,” she added.
“The Robert Gumede Family Keni Foundation and Gijima feel it is imperative that the ‘missing middle’ is assisted to ensure that more students receive a fair and equal opportunity to complete their studies. We believe that education is power, and the key to success.”
The University of Mpumalanga has over the years established a collaborative relationship with Gijima. The Chairman of Gijima, Mr Robert Gumede was one of the first people who spearheaded and provided funding for the establishment of the first university in Mpumalanga
Gijima is also sponsoring the Academic Excellence Award in ICT, which includes a one-year internship. The first recipient of the award, Ms Precious Leutle is currently doing her internship with Gijima. The Keni Foundation, which is a foundation under the Guma Group, was instrumental in the establishment of a partnership between the University of Mpumalanga and Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA. One of UMP’s emerging academics, Dr Inam Yekwayo spent three months at Harvard University as a visiting scholar in 2019.
@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures @ChrisplPhoto