A lack of access to resources as a result of being away from campus, increased stress and anxiety, and a home environment not conducive to studying were the three biggest challenges faced by university students in 2020 due to COVID-19.
This was revealed in the Feenix Insights and Learning 2020 Report. Feenix, the student crowdfunding platform, sponsored by Standard Bank, surveyed 261 students on the platform for the report. The students come from 25 public universities across South Africa.
In 2020 there were 1109 students on the Feenix platform which was launched in 2017 with Standard Bank as a founding partner in response to the #FeesMustFall movement which highlighted how many students were unable to afford the cost of higher education in the country.
Nearly 70% of students surveyed in the Feenix Insights and Learning 2020 Report indicated having an annual household income below R100k, indicating very low affordability. Yet, 88% of the students did not qualify for NSFAS, while other finance options such as scholarships and loans were inaccessible to them.
“This report provides an insightful snapshot into the very real challenges that many students face in South Africa. These challenges extend beyond accessing finance and were exacerbated in 2020 because of the restrictions associated with COVID-19,” says Magdeline Thidiela, Head: Client Solutions, Retail Personal Lending, at Standard Bank.
The report reveals key insights into the financial and education pressures facing students, including the impact of COVID-19.
The impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education sector in South Africa, as universities across the country shut down, leaving many students feeling vulnerable.
22% of students interviewed said that COVID-19 negatively affected their academic performance, getting a B instead of an A rating. 15% of students said it had negatively affected their academic progression, while 25% said their earning potential was negatively impacted.
The least accessible resources during lockdown were data, textbooks, learning materials as well as laptops and other digital devices. Worryingly, 30% of students struggled to access food. 33% could not access mental health services. Only 6% had access to all resources they needed.
In line with its vision to remove barriers to education, Feenix launched the #CapTheGap initiative in May 2020.
It worked closely with universities to identify the final year and postgraduate students who were at risk of being left out in the move to online learning during campus closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Individuals and corporates responded to the crowdfunding initiative and raised R3.5 million to equip 403 students with data, digital devices, and food in 2020, of which R2 million was donated by Standard Bank.
Despite a challenging year, 84% of these students are fully on track to complete their degrees and a further 11% need a bit more time.
“Students have found ways to stay on track in their educational journeys, earn an income, gain work experience, and build grit by overcoming very real challenges. Considering students’ household income and their inability to qualify for other sources of funding, a democratised education system is still something to strive for. It shows a great deal of determination when students turn to the public for help through crowdfunding,” says Leana de Beer, Chief Executive Officer from Feenix.
“It’s encouraging to see so many students continuing with their studies despite the challenges 2020 brought. Crowdfunding has proven to be an effective means of generating funding for tertiary education needs. We hope that 2021 brings much success for those who are continuing their studies,” Thidiela concludes.
The Feenix crowd-funding platform makes tertiary education more accessible for vast amounts of students that are unable to afford the cost of tertiary education. Since its inception, it has raised over R77 million, providing support for over 2 000 students.