DURBAN - THE departments of Basic Education and Public Enterprises held a virtual meeting with Eskom managers, led by chief executive André de Ruyter, last week to discuss the impact of load shedding on the matric exams.
This followed an outcry that multiple blackouts had prevented pupils and teachers from adequately preparing for the final exams which are currently being written.
The meeting is said to have been attended by managers from the Department of Public Enterprises, led by Director-General Kgathatso Tlhakudi and Department or Basic Education (DBE) Acting Director-General Dr Granville Whittle who was accompanied by a team of managers.
They deliberated on the impact of load shedding on basic education in general and the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations in particular.
The DBE said that in the meeting it made a presentation in which it outlined the scope of the NSC Examinations and why it was important to have an uninterrupted electricity supply.
In the statement released by the DBE, it said De Ruyter expressed regret for the inconvenience caused to the matric candidates and the department, and said Eskom as an organisation understood the challenges brought on by load shedding.
The department said load shedding was creating a general sense of anxiety and tension among candidates at a time when they should be focused on writing their final examinations.
“The crucial period of preparing for the examination the night before is now disrupted by load shedding. There is added stress emanating from the traffic congestion in the morning due to non-functioning traffic lights. In addition to this, the department tabled a set of proposals to Eskom for serious consideration,” the DBE said.
The department made the following suggestions:
Consideration must be made for load shedding to be avoided when the South African Sign Language Home Language (SASL HL) is written on November 23 and 30 as it requires laptops and other devices.
Eskom should suspend load shedding every evening, from Sunday to Thursday, for four hours across the country from 7pm to 11pm. This would allow pupils to prepare for the examination to be written the following morning.
Eskom should suspend load shedding across the 194 marking centres. Marking takes place from December 8 to 22. Eskom should suspend load shedding across the 37 capture centres from December 11 to 27.
De Ruyter said other sectors had made similar requests and Eskom would consider the recommendations.
He said Eskom had adjusted the load-shedding schedule to stage 2 last Thursday and had suspended it on Friday. He cautioned that there was no guarantee that the suspension would remain in place as the situation was being monitored regularly.
KwaZulu-Natal provincial MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu said the engagements with Eskom were continuous, adding that the department would have preferred that there was no load shedding during examination time.
Mshengu said the remaining examinations needed to be protected and he believed the revision time could still be salvaged. “The minister continues to engage with the role-players to protect the integrity of the examinations and help learners to study more and prepare for the examinations,” he said.
Spokesperson for Eskom, Sikonathi Mantshantsha, confirmed the meeting had taken place last week between the power utility and the DBE to see what was possible.
“The thing to bear in mind is that load shedding is only implemented as a last resort,” he said.