Wits management and the SRC have negotiated a data allowance for international students for the rest of the academic year.

Wits University will be providing data to an estimated 250 international students currently located in three countries outside of South Africa.  This is according to an email sent to international students by the Wits dean of students affairs, Jerome September, on Monday, August 10.

The arrangement will allow students living in Lesotho to receive 30GB of data, while students in Zimbabwe and eSwatini will receive 10GB of data. The amount issued is dependent on data costs and regulations in each region.

“Following intensive deliberations, we are pleased to announce that the university has successfully completed negotiations with Vodacom, MTN and Econet,” said September in the letter. The announcement brings relief to the international students who had returned home due to the lockdown in March 2020, and could not benefit from the data distributed to locally-based students since April. 

Wits SRC international representativeMahau Ntahli, said, “It was the SRC who proposed the provision of data. We worked tirelessly with international CSOs (civil society organisations) to find services providers to suggest to the university management.”  

Nosipho Dlamini, (21), a third-year BA law student, living in eSwatini, welcomes the announcement allowance. “I was happy to hear the announcement, I felt it was unfair that access to data was only being provided to South African students, whilst international students had to use their own data,” she said.  

According to Ntahli, the data will have no access restrictions like those imposed on the data distributed to students based in South Africa.This means that the international  students will be able to access any sites at any time. 

Tadiwanashe Bazil, (22), a final-year BA Law student based in Zimbabwe, said he has missed lectures and deadlines due to poor network access. “I haven’t been able to participate in any class activity, as a result, I often watch the recorded lectures,” he said.  In response to the problems caused by the lack of good access, Ntahli said, International students need to be allocated to a catch-up time. Some of the lecturers are being strict with deadlines and are ignoring the challenges that students were faced with.” Ntahli said the SRC have received complaints via their social media and email, from international students who experienced connectivity issues“Some students haven’t been able to participate in lectures and do their assignments and projects well since March”.   

Wits rolled out remote learning at the start of the second term on Wednesday, April 20. The international students data has not yet been received and the students say they are still awaiting instructions on how to access the data.

Featured Image: International students based in Lesotho, eSwatini and Zimbabwe are set to receive data from Wits University. Photo: Zinhle Belle. 

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