Being outside of the world of work and learning institutions, I am divorced from what learners, students, teachers, and lecturers have to deal with when it comes to the lack of access to teaching and learning. My limited encounters with platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and even WhatsApp group videos give me some sense of the role that distance plays. Learning encounters are not only content-based but also have to take values, attitudes and response to different personalities into account. We can be grateful that this pandemic happened when we do have access to those platforms and are not completely visually distanced.
But for maybe the majority of our population this is not a given. The pandemic has indeed highlighted the divide between the rich and the poor. For me it is even more important for us to recognise where we are in eradicating poverty, what our particular contributions towards that is to truly be able to say that we are working towards an equal society. Why have we not yet reached our targets? Why must the poor only look on to see what is possible and not be part of that possibility?
Participating in the recent Russel Botman Memorial Lecture, hosted by Stellenbosch University, I introduced the fifteen bursary recipients for 2020. During that lecture, I became so acutely aware that we are dealing with a privileged grouping in our society, with a statistic of roughly 1% of our population participating in higher education. And even there, technology and the use thereof fail us. It fails to transmit videos, the speaker cannot be heard, poor internet connection and the like. And what about the onlookers outside of these networks, without data and appropriate devices?
This informs my plea for donations to the Russel Botman Bursary Fund for more of the “outsiders” to be let into higher education – for a better future for all communities and not only some. Let this be our contribution to creating more bursary opportunities.