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Universities get N$9.4m virus relief

2020-06-09  Albertina Nakale

Universities get N$9.4m virus relief
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The government has made available N$9.4 million towards public higher education institutions to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. 
Of the N$9.4 million, the University of Namibia will receive N$7 million, while the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) would be allocated N$2.4 million.  

Local universities are negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced institutions to resort to online learning. However, many of the students at higher education institutions are unable to access and afford online learning platforms. 
Higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi noted all efforts were done and are still being made to ensure that students continue with their educational activities during these testing times, through the online learning mode. 

Kandjii-Murangi yesterday announced an improved and strengthened information technology (IT) infrastructure at the two universities to help mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19. For Nust, she said, there is a need to upgrade its bandwidth capacity. “There is an urgent need to upgrade the bandwidth capacity at Nust and an amount of N$2.4 million is to be invested in this expansion,” she said.  
The server at Unam will also be upgraded at a cost of N$7 million. 

“Once we improve the IT infrastructure, Unam is willing to assist other smaller institutions of higher education. It is up to these smaller institutions to reach out to Unam and Nust for such assistance,” the minister explained. 
After extensive consultations, the higher education ministry realised that key challenges in switching to online learning include lack of access to computers. 

Other challenges are unaffordable data cost to access learning materials and limited ICT infrastructure capacity at higher educations to cope with the volume of programmes and supporting materials to be uploaded. 
Therefore, the ministry adopted a holistic approach to mobilise the required resources to support the sector from the negative effects of Covid-19 and make sure that online learning happens at various higher education institutions.  
Some of the funds are sourced from what is already available with Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF).  The government’s response strategies for the sector will benefit all local needy students at local public and private higher education institutions who could not access online education, during this time, due to lack of internet facility and appropriate computer equipment. 
They will be provided support, at a highly subsidised cost. 

These include portable internet devises with 10 Gigabyte data per month for a year, and laptops to access online learning. 
“Work is at an advance stage to acquire the devices and equipment. The main distinguishing factor is that, to benefit from this initiative, a student must be needy and must have been negatively affected by Covid-19 in the past three to four months,” she said. 

2020-06-09  Albertina Nakale

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