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A university that gives hope


Prof Puleng LenkaBula (Principal and VC, Unisa) celebrates with students who received the laptops.

Eight Unisa students were presented with laptops by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Puleng LenkaBula, on 6 August 2021 at an event held on the university’s Main Campus.

More than 500 laptops are set to be distributed to students selected on the grounds of academic merit and the university’s laptop distribution criteria. The eight machines handed over at the event on 6 August marked further progress in this regard.

Speaking at the event, the VC reflected on the importance of the occasion and expressed her gratitude to the Unisa Foundation for being at the “centre of looking at possibilities and opportunities for Unisa to become an excellent support environment for students in their pursuit of their studies”.

LenkaBula highlighted that Unisa had always been at the forefront of open distance higher education in the world. She hailed it as the inventor of dedicated open distance learning and added that “it is the only university that has almost 50% of its students supported by the state through the national financial aid scheme (NSFAS)”.

“It is, therefore, a university that gives hope and which is a partner to the state in ensuring that higher education becomes a lever to individuals to improving their own plight through education,” she continued.

Unisa’s intended impactful contribution to society


Prof Puleng LenkaBula (Principal and VC, Unisa) addresses the guests at the handover event. “Unisa is a university that gives hope and which is a partner to the state in ensuring that higher education becomes a lever to individuals to improving their own plight through education. ”

Unisa is responsible for 35% of the post-school education system. “This means that if we do not ensure that our students succeed, we are failing our society in the quest to produce economically active citizens who can transform the society,” she said.

LenkaBula encouraged all students to realise how advantaged and privileged they are to be part of the “35% of the people who are trying to ensure that our country and our continent, as well as our contribution as Unisa in the global arena, are impactful”.

In 2019, the university embarked on an initiative, through the Unisa Foundation, to raise funds to procure student learning devices. Though these were not the first laptop devices to be distributed to students, their being handed over does mark a continuation of this and other initiatives that Unisa has set in place.

Various donor partners, private and civic, as well as local and global, came on board to donate both funds and laptops to the university—machines that are needed in order to ensure that students can continue to study, research, learn, examine, and ultimately succeed in life.

Unisa has approximately 150 000 students who require laptop devices to enable them to learn and write exams. However, the majority cannot afford to buy such devices because they come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The technologically viable future that Unisa seeks to achieve

Unisa is looking, as its priority, to achieve a future in which it is wholly digitised and transformed into a leading open distance and e-learning (ODeL) university where teaching and learning will be primarily online. ICT will remain the biggest driver towards this future.

According to the VC, the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 has forced many universities to move to an online environment to ensure that learning continues during the lockdowns. “We are now all aware of the need to use ICTs, and support for teaching and learning has soared. Nothing had ever prepared us for the affordability of online learning.

“The abrupt shift to online learning has not only challenged the way we have been teaching but has also opened our eyes to the need for doing things differently. Digitisation at Unisa had already been in the making for many years and it had long been recognised that venue-supported learning and examination models would, in the long run, not be sustainable.

“We are thus seeking to have a technologically viable university that will be able to fulfil its strategic mandate, which is to be an ODeL educator,” she said.

The university recognises the ever more pressing need to provide students with support structures. “Such gadgets are needed to help students to acquire education. As management, we are confident these learning devices will make the learning process manageable and seamless,” she said.

In her conclusion, LenkaBula encouraged students to use the devices to come up with ideas on how to spawn a revitalised civic society, as well as enterprises and businesses. “The university prides itself on the success of its students, but also takes pride in those students who extend themselves not only in ensuring that they flourish, but that their families, communities, the country, and the continent do so as well.”

This is a Unisa Foundation project.

*By Busisiwe Mahlangu, Communications Coordinator, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2021/08/18