(Published - 13 May 2020)
When President Ramaphosa, on the 9th of April 2020, announced that the South African coronavirus lockdown would be extended until the end of April, two of the UWC Moot Court Society’s Executive Members saw the need to intervene and to assist our fellow students. It is plain that the extension of the lockdown will have a dire impact on the most disenfranchised and marginalised people in society, and that we need not look too far nor search too wide to identify and help these persons. It is in this light that we saw it fit, as an organisation with a platform, to lend a helping hand.
Many of the students at the University of the Western Cape come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some are even the first in their families to pursue tertiary education and they rely on government’s NSFAS funding to sustain themselves and their families. However, the novel coronavirus has stopped the world in its tracks, resulting particularly in a halt to the academic year. Universities and institutions of learning across the country, in their determination to rescue the academic year, have resorted to what we now know as online learning. Commendable as this may be, many students struggle with access to the necessary resources that would enable them to participate in the online learning programme.
The UWC Management recognised this and in response launched the #NoStudentWillBeLeftBehind campaign in order to raise funds that will be used to help students - with mobile data, to access work material posted by lecturers online, as well as to have access to the appropriate working devices such as laptops - to effectively engage in the proposed online video classes. We saw it fitting, as a student organisation, to play a role in this campaign. After some discussion, we identified that in addition to the challenges with online learning and due to the lockdown, many students still face the greater battle of hunger.
The members of the Society’s Executive Committee all lent a hand, and this resulted in a chain of monetary contributions totalling R2100. We decided that the money would be directed towards purchasing seven R300 online food vouchers through the Computicket facility, which enabled us to pick from various food stores such as Checkers and Shoprite, once we determined which one would be the closest to the student in need. On the 29th of April 2020, we created a brochure to inform students of our initiative, in the hope that it would be shared amongst several of our students. We also posted the brochure on our UWC Moot Society social media pages.
To date, we have managed to send out three food vouchers mainly for use at Shoprite. We have succeeded in sponsoring 11 students with mobile data vouchers for use on networks such as Vodacom, Telkom and MTN.
Unfortunately, there are many students that we couldn’t assist. We also received word from a final-year student who had to use her NSFAS stipend to buy materials with which to fix a leaking roof at home.
As a society of law students, we pledge to play a role in the fight against poverty and inequality. In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we recognise that this responsibility is even more immediate and necessary, and as such, we call on our fellow South Africans for assistance.