Classes resumed at the University of Johannesburg on Monday, April 20.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) resumed teaching via online platforms on Monday, April 20 despite calls from student organisation SASCO UJ to boycott the virtual classes. 

The South African Student Congress UJ branch (SASCO UJ), had called for the suspension of academic activities via a statement on Sunday, April 17. Tshepang Mpai, SASCO UJ Doornfontein (DFC) chairperson said the #boycottonlinelearningUJ movement, “was formed in order to raise awareness on how the university has deserted students of the poor working class as the transition to online learning commences.” 

Subsequent to the call though, the university announced on Sunday, April 19, that it had “invested significant financial resources to secure 30GB of data per student per month,” in addition to the distribution of 4000 laptops to qualifying students. In response to the announcement, SASCO suspended its call for the boycott.

“We [Mpai and other student leaders] currently welcome the steps taken by the university in ensuring that a certain portion of students are catered for,” said Mpai.      

Wits Vuvuzela, spoke to UJ SRC chairperson, Simphiwe Cass who said that the reason student leadership had called for the suspension of online classes was that they felt that the university was not yet equipped to teach online. “There are not enough resources, no surveys have been conducted and verification of cellphone numbers are still to be carried out,”  said Cass.

Although classes continued as scheduled on Monday, April 20, SASCO UJ and  UJ SRC say they are not too impressed with the measures taken by the university to ensure classes resumed online. 

“We [SASCO UJ DFC chairperson along with other student leaders] are still concerned with the number of laptops the university is pledging, as 4000 laptops will not be enough to suffice the number of students in need of devices. We further are concerned about the institution stating that the data will only be allocated to students who reach certain criteria, one we don’t know of,” said Mpai.

The UJ SRC chairperson told Wits Vuvuzela that of the university’s student population of 55 000, less than half are on NSFAS which he believes, is one of the qualifying criteria for a laptop from the university. “What then happens to the ones who are not on NSFAS and still can’t afford smart devices”, asked Cass. Cass also expressed concerns about the data given to students. “It doesn’t make sense to give students more data at night than during the day when the online classes take place during the day,” Cass said of the free  data. 

Maphangisa Makhubo (24), a third year, mining engineering student, said “the allocation of 10GB during the day and 20GB at night is ridiculous, it makes no sense we attend during the day and write tests and assignments then they allocate more data at night forgetting  we home and we don’t have the luxury of study at night like we do at res.”

“We [Mpai and other student leaders] are observant of all implementation and actions by the University and are yet to take further action if the university continues to compromise those who currently have no access to online learning,” Mpai said. 

FEATURED IMAGE: University of Johannesburg main campus. Photo: Provided.