“When Universities closed in March, I thought it would be for a short time so I decided to take a break from studies and relax a bit,” says Doreen Namuli, a second-year student of Economics at Makerere University.
“But when the first three weeks ended, I started feeling rusty and I knew I had to read in order not to lose grips on what I had learned and hopefully, use this time to read ahead.”
It goes without saying that most university courses are research-based and average students typically spend more time in the library than in the lecture rooms. Therefore, reading notes and handouts alone did not make much sense to Namuli as she needed to refer to the referenced material which she did not have.
“Back at campus, I would easily download this material from the library or anywhere around the University with WiFi,” says Namuli “So I asked my parents to buy me data bundles.”
Although the bundles were availed, Namuli knows that they were costly especially at such a time when her mother’s business remains closed due to the Covid-19 prevention guidelines.
Like Namuli, Lynn Kwikiriza, a third-year Law student at Uganda Christian University admitted to the biting cost of data while studying at home; “I was used to opting for the library Wi-Fi while at campus. Mobile data while at home is quite costly given these hard times.”
In different phone interviews with some university students, they all expressed the high cost of accessing learning material online. However, MTN closed that gap by zero-rating university e-learning sites, just like it did for the Primary and secondary school learners.
Students from universities including Makerere, Uganda Christian University, Uganda Martyrs, Kyambogo, International University of East Africa, Mbarara, and Gulu are benefitting from this offer. By zero-rating the e-learning platforms, lecturers can upload study materials to the platforms at no data cost to enable students to study for free while at home.
“Oh my God, It’s the best offer ever. You know how we lawyers read widely and heavily. I am sorted,” Kwikiriza said hysterically. “It’s amazing and very convenient. I can see my results and course work marks at any time without data worries.”
This offer has seen many learners get out of their comfort zones and study despite the pandemic and lockdown.
According to Trevor Ochom, a final year student of Education at Kyambogo University, this offer is an answered prayer.
“When it’s all said and done, I know we shall have quite a marathon back at university once schools re-open. So the best way to keep up is by reading ahead while at home,” says Ochom.
“This offer makes studying while at home very easy. You don’t even need a laptop, a simple smartphone is enough. I appeal to fellow students to use their time at home productively,” added Ochom.
According to Kwikiriza, the content on the website is insightful and students have no excuse whatsoever when it comes to studying: ”I would totally recommend it to my course mates and friends seeing as we need all the information we can get at the moment.”
Makerere University Vice-Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe has lauded the telecommunications giant for this gesture saying it will go a long way in enabling students to catch up on lost study time as they will now have access to the study materials at no cost.
“Our negotiations with MTN Uganda yielded a lot of fruit as the telecom company has accepted to zero-rate six of our (Makerere University) online learning platforms. We applaud them for this. I now urge our students and lecturers to take advantage of this opportunity,” Said Prof Nawangwe when MTN first announced the offer, two weeks ago.
MTN Uganda is dedicated to helping and impacting the communities positively and this is one of the ways the company is reaching out to students that may have a hard time accessing study materials on the internet because of financial constraints.