Case Study: How Pargo’s Agile Click & Collect Solution Helped Save The Academic Year

How Pargo helped South African universities deliver essential study materials to students.


2020 was the year where the migration from “bricks to clicks” accelerated like never before. Many companies and industries that had never had a digital presence had to jump online fast and rethink their business models to accommodate the rapidly changing reality brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With no students being able to attend classes, tertiary education institutions had to transform quickly. To save the academic year, universities had to embrace technology and shift classes to online spaces, but, in the process, a new challenge arose— how can universities reach under-digitalised students across South Africa, quickly and affordably? They found the solution in Pargo’s infrastructure of reach, their ever-growing nationwide network of Pargo Pickup Points, which covers over 87% of South Africa’s postal codes.

Through this quick-to-implement partnership, many top South African universities, including the University of Cape Town (UCT), The University of the Free State (UFS) and Rhodes University, could easily reach the most digitally disadvantaged students living in the furthest recesses of the South African landscape and send them the materials they needed to continue their studies leaving no student behind.

The Problem

Due to the ongoing COVID crisis, 1st-year dropout rates rose by 68% in 2020, which signalled the urgent need for tertiary institutions to adopt e-learning to continue the academic year. This shift presented a unique logistical challenge as many South African students live in remote areas with informal or inconclusive addresses where they have limited access to goods and services, making it difficult for them to get hold of the resources required for remote learning.

“It is common course that students went through challenges of access to gadgets, network instability and data shortages during the switch to Emergency Remote Learning. […] The risk of being judged on not accessing and using technology, then on capability and substance, seemed quite real for many students and it weighed heavily on their spirits.”, says Professor Pearl Sithole, Vice-Principal: Academic and Research, QwaQwa Campus, University of the Free State.

Taking on such an enormous logistical challenge themselves would have come at a great cost to students and universities in both time and money, and using affordable alternatives like the South African Postal Service would have been undeniably unreliable, potentially delaying the academic year even further.

The Solution?

Partnering with Pargo! With Pargo’s vast network of over 3 000 pickup points located in local stores and popular retail chains like Clicks, Caltex and SPAR at their disposal, universities could quickly leverage a nationwide infrastructure of reach to ensure no student gets left behind.

Though typically used for Click & Collect, Pargo utilised its pickup point network to develop a tailored distribution solution for the education sector, which allowed universities to send students study materials, USBs, tablets, laptops, stationery, cameras, coursework, tests and assignments to the pickup point of their choice. Universities also sent empty mailing bags with preprinted waybills to students, which they could use to return their assignments at a pickup point once completed.

Thanks to Pargo’s innovative live-tracking technology, students and universities always had eyes on the status of their parcels, and with Pargo’s professional customer experience team ever on standby, any issue could quickly be resolved.

“It is important to understand our appreciation of a company such as Pargo for being ready to respond to this isolation and emotional strain, by offering an infrastructure of reach to the neediest and yet capable students.”, continues Professor Pearl Sithole.

The Results

Nearly 35 000 students living across South Africa received parcels containing their essential study materials. 52% of these orders were delivered to outlying areas, such as the farming town of Malelane in Mpumalanga, which are typically difficult to reach through traditional delivery methods.

Even international students living in neighbouring countries could get access to their study materials thanks to their universities’ partnership with Pargo. For instance, 30 UCT students based in Lesotho had their parcels delivered to a pickup point in Ladybrand, 15km from the border and Pargo arranged for an agent to take it over for collection.

Many students credited Pargo with helping them complete their academic year, such as Kedibone, a visually impaired student from UFS who required specially printed study material to be delivered to continue studying. Another student from UFS, Lucky, expressed his gratitude to Pargo’s solution, which allowed him to complete two modules he almost had to give up on due to a lack of resources.

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