New research shows how Covid-19 affected university students in 2020

Crowdfunding bridges the gaps for hundreds of students

Feenix, the student crowdfunding platform sponsored by Standard Bank, surveyed 261 students from 25 public universities in SA.
Feenix, the student crowdfunding platform sponsored by Standard Bank, surveyed 261 students from 25 public universities in SA.
Image: Supplied/Standard Bank

According to the “Feenix Insights and Learning 2020” report, the three biggest challenges faced by university students in 2020 due to Covid-19 was 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.

Feenix, the student crowdfunding platform, sponsored by Standard Bank, surveyed 261 students from 25 public universities in SA.

In 2020 there were 1,109 students on the Feenix platform, 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 SA.

About 70% of students surveyed in the report indicated having an annual household income below R100K, yet 88% of the students did not qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, and 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 SA. These challenges extend beyond accessing finance and were compounded in 2020 because of the restrictions associated with Covid-19,” says Magdeline Thidiela, head of client solutions and personal lending at Standard Bank. 

The report reveals insights into the financial and education pressures facing students, including the impact of Covid-19.

The impact of Covid-19

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the education sector in SA, as universities across the country shut down, leaving many students feeling vulnerable.

Twenty-two percent of students interviewed said Covid-19 negatively affected their academic performance, getting a B instead of an A rating. Fifteen percent said it had negatively affected their academic progression, while 25% said their earning potential was affected.

The least accessible resources during lockdown were data, textbooks, learning materials, laptops and other digital devices. Worryingly, 30% of students struggled to access food and 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 closures due to the pandemic. 

Individuals and corporates responded to the crowdfunding initiative and raised R3.5m to equip 403 students with data, digital devices and food in 2020, of which R2m was donated by Standard Bank.

Despite a challenging year, 84% of these students are on track to complete their degrees and about 11% need a bit more time. “Students have found ways to continue their educational journeys, earn an income, gain work experience, and build grit by overcoming 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 Feenix CEO Leana de Beer. 

“It’s encouraging to see so many students continuing with their studies despite the obstacles 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,” says Thidiela.  

The Feenix crowdfunding 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 more than R77m, providing support for more than 2,000 students. 

This article was paid for by Standard Bank.