The University of Fort Hare will make 12,000 laptops, along with modems and data, available to students for online learning while they are under lockdown as part of efforts to delay the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The institution said it would use a loan-to-buy scheme and add the cost of the devices to student fee accounts.
Other universities, including Wits University, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Cape Town have already started distributing devices and data to students.
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has not yet given any direction on the future of the academic year.
The minister was expected to outline the sector’s plans during a media briefing on Thursday.
Some students have expressed that online learning was not possible for everyone, especially those in rural and disadvantaged areas.
But Fort Hare said the decision to go digital and distribute the devices was necessitated by the daily rise in cases, particularly in the Eastern Cape, where its campuses were based. One is in Alice and another is in East London.
“Management, therefore, foresees continued and sustained disruption to normal university functions and traditional methods of learning which involve contact sessions between students and teaching staff.
“The university will henceforth incorporate online and remote learning modalities as one of the delivery strategies for its programmes – applicable during this period as well as post lockdown – in order to recover the academic year,” the institution’s spokesperson, Tandi Mapukata, said in a statement.
The university said, while it was not in a position to fully switch to remote learning, some material had been uploaded on the Blackboard e-Education platform and there was a moratorium on all assessments.
“When it is safe to bring students back to campus, the university will pursue blended delivery methods which will require our students to have all the tools necessary to recover lost time.”
By Wednesday evening, the Eastern Cape had 630 Covid-19 cases.