Government in urgent talks with Eskom as load-shedding hits matrics

09 November 2021 - 20:48
Senior government officials are to hold urgent talks with Eskom as load-shedding hits matriculants writing their final exams.
Senior government officials are to hold urgent talks with Eskom as load-shedding hits matriculants writing their final exams.
Image: Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais

Senior delegations from the basic education and public enterprises departments will hold urgent talks with Eskom CEO André de Ruyter about how load-shedding is affecting matric exams.

Granville Whittle, the basic education department’s acting director-general, told parliament on Tuesday during a briefing on exam readiness that the meeting is expected to take place very soon.

This comes in the wake of serious concerns expressed by MPs, the education department and exams quality assurer Umalusi over the problem of load-shedding.

Pupils wrote mathematics and religion studies on Monday and economics on Tuesday while Eskom implemented stage 4 load-shedding. Matrics will be writing business studies on Wednesday.

About 898,000 pupils are writing matric exams conducted by the department of basic education, the biggest assessment body.

Whittle said that the department identified electricity supply as a risk to the National Senior Certificate exams and “we therefore had teams from the department and Eskom working together over the past few months to try to find some kind of resolution to the challenges we are facing”.

“Unfortunately, our efforts to work with Eskom have not been very successful and it has compromised, obviously, the process of the exams.”

He said they were concerned as there was still a long way to go before the exams ended on December 7.

Whittle said the department’s director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, had indicated to him on Tuesday that he had spoken to the director-general of public enterprises, Kgathatso Tlhakudi, for an urgent meeting with Eskom “to find some resolutions to the challenges we are facing”.

“It’s not just about what happens on the day in the exam room [when there’s load-shedding] but also how learners are able to prepare in the run-up to the exams,” he said.

Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi said load-shedding was a big issue and “depressing when you look at how it affects the opportunities of our students and how it affects our education system negatively”.

“It has far-reaching implications and I support the move for high-powered delegations to meet Eskom.”

Rufus Poliah, the department’s chief director for public exams and assessments, said that they had asked the provincial education departments to make provision for generators during the process of capturing marks from the exam scripts “because the period for mark capture is very limited and we cannot have Eskom interrupting our plans”.

“Generators will have to be looked at as an option,” he said.

The chairperson of the portfolio committee on basic education, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, also expressed grave concern over load-shedding during the writing of matric.

She said load-shedding hurt pupils’ exam preparation.