Online campaign aims to provide students with laptops as well as airtime, to bridge the gap for those who do not have adequate access to either..  

After the success of his drive to supply needy students with airtime, a Limpopo man has expanded his effort to include laptop computers. 

Aubrey Senyolo (37), from Thabazimbi, launched his laptop initiative on social media in March under the hashtag #LaptopsForStudents, following the success of his airtime campaign.  

In February 2021 Senyolo, commonly known as ‘‘Mr Airtime’’, started to help students in their struggle over the data costs needed to complete their work. He said he buys airtime and distributes it via social media to students who use the hashtag #AirtimeForAssignments. He hosts regular competitions on Twitter where students can participate, making the selection process simpler. 

Senyolo has so far managed to provide airtime for about 130 students.  He typically gives them airtime ranging from R10-R30 each, which can be converted to data, and provides Telkom users with 1gb of weekend data. “I give them airtime five days of the week,” he told Wits Vuvuzela. 

Now Senyolo aims to raise money to buy laptops for students who need them. As part of the campaign, he asks members of the public to donate at least R20 to his donor fund, which was started on March 11 2021. He has partnered with Think Twice, a non-profit organisation and ETDP Seta-accredited training provider for youth and community development. It helps to manage funds the public donate to.  

Senyolo, a broker by profession, said he is driven to help students because he does not want to see them “loitering in the streets”. He told Wits Vuvuzela, “I feel the need to assist them. They are our future presidents, psychologists and doctors.”  

For his #LaptopsForStudents campaign he aims to raise funds for 50 laptops, which will be donated to registered students who are eligible. He feels this is a realistic number for the time being, but hopes to get sponsors who can help increase the goal. 

The campaign has been running for a few weeks and has managed to raise R670. “So far, the process of receiving funding is too slow, but we are pushing for big brands to sponsor us,” said Senyolo. 

Despite institutions such as NSFAS already providing students with laptops, Senyolo feels it is not enough. “Not all of them [students] receive them,” he said.  

He was moved to start his airtime campaign because he felt a lot of students need financial assistance as they have no source of income. “There are a lot of gaps. Some students receive data from their respective institutions, but some do not or it is not always enough,” Senyolo told Wits Vuvuzela 

Universities such as Wits and Nelson Mandela University (NMU) provide 10gb of monthly data that can be used at midday, and 20gb of night-time data. “I think this is kind of unfair because we do a lot of schoolwork during the day,” said Khanyisile Jamani, a third-year logistics student from NMU. She was one of the beneficiaries of #AirtimeForAssignments.  

Oletilwe Montwedi, a second-year Unisa law student and airtime beneficiary, said his institution does provide students with data, but only during examination periods. “For many of us students, it is not enough because a lot of time is spent on the internet researching and completing longer online examinations,” Montwedi told Wits Vuvuzela. 

Mr Airtime said, “There was a time whereby I made a post about giving out Telkom weekend data worth 1gb. That is when Telkom bought data for 18 students who had commented on that post.” 

Initiating a campaign over social media means it is easy for people to lie about being students, to take a chance at getting free airtime. To avoid such situations, Senyolo has asked that beneficiaries provide him with information such as proof of registration and copies of their student cards, to ensure they are indeed students.  

From the information he has gathered thus far, Senyolo said most of his beneficiaries are from Unisa, but there are also needy students from North West University (NWU), University of Venda, UKZN and University of Limpopo. 

FEATURED IMAGE: An MTN airtime and data balance summary. Photo: File