14 February 2012

Unisa refuses to communicate by e-mail

The University of South Africa (Unisa) used to be the biggest distance-education university in the southern hemisphere, but don't expect to be able to communicate with them by e-mail.

Unisa refuses to accept e-mail from Telkom SA, South Africa's biggest telecommunications serivce, and the one that most other ISPs ride piggy-back on.

Back when Unisa first started offering tuition, in 1961 or thereabouts, there was no e-mail, and so it was a correspondence university and everything went by snail mail. It now seems that those days are back again. And I wouldn't put it past them to censor the snail mail as well.

It still seems to be possible to send e-mail to Unisa from Gmail, but for how much longer? Who knows? And how many other ISPs have they decided to blacklist, or might blacklist in future?

A distance education university that stops its staff from communicating with other academics, and its students from communicating with the university by e-mail is no longer a distance education university in the 21st century, and hardly even a university at all.

After battling for weeks to communicate with Unisa academics and Unisa Press (who published a book of which I was a co-author), I asked Telkom Internet to find out what was wrong, and this was their reply:

Thank you for emailing Telkom Internet Support.
Unfortunately telkom email server has been blacklisted by unisa.

Kind Regards,

Telkom Internet Support
E-mail: support@telkomsa.net
Tel: 10210 option 2
International: +27 123523661
Webpage: http://www.telkomsa.net

So if you were planning to study by distance education, then it would be advisable to avoid Unisa, and find a university that has made it into the 21st century and lets you communicate with it by e-mail.

And it's time that the Unisa management grew up: they are receiving government subsidies (ie from the taxpayers), and should stop playing petty childish games with communications with students and academics. Will they consider refunding the fees of students who find it difficult to communicate with the university and miss deadlines etc?


bigbluemeanie said...

Surely Unisa is getting its "blacklist" from a specialist provider, not blocking telkom.za itself?

"With for example Telkom ADSL there are a LOT of users that send a LOT of email and since they all appear to be from the same IP address (those of Telkom) it sometimes happens that such IP address is temporally blocked by major spam lists such as spamcop"
- http://online-billing.co.za/knowledgebase.php?action=displayarticle&id=129

Steve Hayes said...

Unisa is blocking telkomsa istelf, and has been for at least two weeks. If I send e-mail to several people, and one of them has an @unisa.ac.za address, the mail simply will not send, and remains in my outbound queue until I remove the recipient with the Unisa address. It was when I asked Telkom Internet about that that I got the reply posted above.

Telkom SA is one of the biggest ISPs in South Africa, and must be used by thousands of Unisa students, not to mention others who sometimes need to communicate with people at the university, so I think that the way Unisa is behaving in this is highly irresponsible.

bigbluemeanie said...

ahI still think that Unisa is blocking emails from a list of ISPs that have either been used by spammers and/or are not implementing proper security measures to stop spam relay. I experienced the same thing with BT Internet some years ago: my mails to various other ISPs were being blocked. The solution was that BT had to implement more secure email and then apply to be removed from the list of "dodgy" ISPs. I know you feel aggrieved because Telkom.za is such a big player in South Africa but if it can happen to BT (which is a global player) it can happen to anyone.


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