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Aspen donates tablet devices worth R2.4m to UP students

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A University of Pretoria student receives his tablet device.
A University of Pretoria student receives his tablet device.

Multinational pharmaceutical company Aspen Pharmacare has donated 600 Internet-enabled electronic devices valued at R2.4 million, to support students from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP).

According to the JSE-listed company, following a rigorous screening process, the mobile tablets were earmarked for selected registered Faculty of Health Sciences students who attend classes regularly and who are unable to purchase the device for themselves.

In March, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced measures to protect SA from the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and, as a result, school and university holidays were brought forward, impacting the learning schedule.

According to Aspen Pharmacare, the donation further complements UP’s efforts to ensure students from medicine and the other health science disciplines are able to continue with their curriculum as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the academic year.

The devices were handed over under strictly controlled hygiene and safety protocols, ahead of the commencement of remote lectures and training that resumed this week.

“Aspen is humbled to serve SA in its time of need, as we work together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen Pharmacare senior executive: strategic trade.

“The provision of these devices to students not only helps to ensure they have continued access to online education, but also limits their need for travel. This donation will help curb the transmission-risk of the virus as the new academic semester begins, allowing students to undertake their studies remotely.”

The donation, notes Nicolaou, is in line with the country’s ambitions of harnessing digital innovation to benefit disadvantaged students, during these difficult times and into the future.

Aspen Pharmacare says it is committed to supporting the sectors and communities in which it operates, both during the current crisis, and in the longer term, as it assists to create sustainable communities in SA.

“While the COVID-19 crisis has created a world of hurt and sadness, it has also allowed the kindness and generosity of the world to shine,” comments professor Robin Green, UP chairperson of the School of Medicine.

“We appreciate the generous donation that Aspen has made to the faculty to assist students with distance learning and to enable them to continue with the 2020 academic year.”

In an effort to assist learners, local institutions of higher learning and telcos have stepped up efforts to ensure virtual learning is a reality during the nationwide lockdown.

Yesterday, Cell C announced it has donated SIM cards, data and airtime to 170 learners, and 10 facilitators of the Ultraviolet Power Training initiative, established by the Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority in collaboration with the Northern Cape Department of Public Works.

The 12-month learnership in renewable energyaims to create sustainable opportunities for learners to start businesses that would manufacture, install and maintain solar geysers and PV electrical systems, notes Cell C.

Last month, the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg announced they had signed contracts with local telco operators MTN and Vodacom to offer their students 30GB of free data to use for online learning.

Vodacom, in partnership with Samsung, last month donated 20 000 smartphones and 100 terabytes of data to the National Department of Health to support government’s objectives to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus by flattening the curve and lowering the infection rate.

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