Worries over matric exam disruptions due to load shedding

 ·28 Sep 2022

The KwaZulu Natal Education Department is raising concern over the impact that continual load shedding could have on students’ preparation for matric exams.

Speaking to ENCA, the MEC for the department, Kwazi Mthethwa, said that at some point this year, the national minister was engaged with Eskom to try and see if it could align its load shedding schedule with the exam timetable.

South Africa has been plunged into the longest period of rolling blackouts in the country’s history, with the national power utility Eskom announcing on 25 September that stage 3 and stage 4 will continue throughout the week.

This follows long stints of stages 5 and 6 with no hope for a stable energy supply in the immediate future. The popular load shedding tracking app, EskomSePush revealed that there has been load shedding for the equivalent of 68 days of this year.

Mthethwa said his department is concerned as trial (prelim) examinations are currently underway, and when they finish at the end of this week (30 September), it will be just a month until final matric exams start.

Matric exams are set to begin on Monday 31 October and continue sporadically until the 7th of December – starting with English and ending with Dramatic arts.

Students are not only affected by load shedding when they are at school writing exams but also when they are at home preparing as power is often required for laptops, internet, lighting and discussing concepts with classmates, he said.

The CEO of the Federation of School Governing Bodies (Fedsas) said that teachers need to plan and teach around load shedding. When a pupil is studying at home, however, those without alternative resources are severely affected, it said.

Mthethwa added that thousands of schools across the province had been asked to try and provide a stable energy supply with either solar panels or generators; however, these solutions come at an unaffordable cost.

Similar situations are shared across the country with the Western Cape Department of Education, in a statement earlier this month, stating that 41 schools in the province have applied to install solar panels.

These projects have been funded either by the school themselves through the governing bodies or by entering into lease agreements with solar leasing platforms, the department said.

On the back of Covid-19 disruptions to the school calendar, matric results for 2021 saw a slight increase of 0.2 percentage points in terms of pass rate from 76.2% in 2020 to 76.4%.

At the start of 2022, opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), said that the matric results are not a true reflection of the number of students who actually failed.

The DA said the ‘real’ matric pass rate is 51.4%, as the official results do not take into consideration the high dropout rate. This year, the dropout rate of learners between grade 10 to 12 is 32.7% (341,403 learners), the party said.

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