The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education sector in South Africa, with schools and universities closed in March in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Some organisations, however, have striven to provide learners with educational resources in spite of the closure. This is the case with the #CapTheGap student relief fund, whose aim has been to make online learning more accessible for final year and postgraduate students during lockdown.
#CapTheGap was launched in May 2020 by Feenix, a crowdfunding educational platform, with the intention of raising R6.6 million so that as many vulnerable students as possible could be sufficiently equipped with connectivity solutions in the form of data and devices such as laptops. As of 21 July, the fund has raised R3.1 million and 294 students have managed to receive both data and laptops, as well as food vouchers.
The CEO of Feenix, Leana De Beer, has noted the steady and phased reintegration of students into universities as a means to curb the spread of COVID-19. This reintegration means that many students might not be going back to campus this year, and possibly not even in early 2021. The fund is therefore a way of assisting those students who will be most impacted by the lockdown and the phased reintegration.
At the outset of the #CapTheGap fund, a selection of students who would receive assistance was made with the collaboration of universities. Household income checks were conducted on students who were eventually selected. Laptops and data were distributed to the selected students with the help of Van Schaik Bookstore, while food vouchers were purchased from Shoprite for the students to redeem.
As De Beer explains, “There is a high expectation of students to be self-motivated, exhibit commitment and accept the flexibility that goes with online engagements. Unfortunately, this is a real challenge for students who are financially restricted due to the high cost of access to the necessary resources, data and the Internet.”
The #CapTheGap fund has benefitted from contributions made by outside organizations. R609,000 was donated to the fund by various individuals, trusts and foundations, while R120,000 was donated by Metropolitan Health Corporate, which is a division of the Momentum Metropolitan Holdings. A spokesperson for the organisation was quoted as saying, “We are proud to contribute to the Feenix #CapTheGap campaign, as we share the belief that education should not be dependent on wealth. This donation will be used towards empowering students to continue with their studies during this challenging period.”
The #CapTheGap fund has proven extremely beneficial for students in need of laptops and data in order to keep on working. It also highlights the necessity for solid connectivity solutions during lockdown. Without these solutions, students and workers might find it difficult to do the work expected of them.