Mood of matriculants dimmed as load-shedding hits schools during exams

Parliament's basic education portfolio committee has appealed to Eskom to take matric exams into account when scheduling load-shedding. Committee chair Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said writing examinations was already very stressful for young people. Stock image.
Parliament's basic education portfolio committee has appealed to Eskom to take matric exams into account when scheduling load-shedding. Committee chair Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said writing examinations was already very stressful for young people. Stock image.
Image: paylessimages / 123RF

The department of basic education has not yet determined the impact of stage 2 load-shedding at schools across the country.

The rotational power cuts came as thousands of grade 12 pupils were due to write their computer applications technology (CAT) and information technology (IT) examinations on Wednesday.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga described the power cuts as unfortunate.

"The extent of the impact has not been established because we are waiting for provinces to report. We will provide an update later.

"We are monitoring the situation closely. We will look into the possibility of alerting Eskom to the negative effect the power cuts may have on national exams," said Mhlanga.

In Limpopo, at least 1,067 pupils were expected write their CAT and IT examinations but the exams were disrupted, according to education spokesperson Sam Mkondo.

Modimolle-Mookgophong municipality mayor Marlene van Staden told TimesLIVE that at least four schools were hit by the unexpected load-shedding.

"Our grade 12 learners had already commenced with their exams when load-shedding kicked in. They were forced to stay inside the classrooms for more than two hours and look at each other, because the law does not permit them to leave the venue after papers have been distributed," said Van Staden.

She described the situation as chaotic after the municipality was bombarded by calls from concerned teachers wanting alternative plans to be made.

"It was so chaotic. Business people were angry and some teachers took to the municipality to demand answers and for action to be taken, but we were as shocked as they were as we had not received any notice," she said.

More than 30 exam centres were affected in the Western Cape.

Education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said a notice of load-shedding was received at the last minute, but the department was able to put contingency plans in place.

"These protocols include ensuring that no learner leaves the examination venue should the electricity cut out, and that they are instead quarantined until electricity resumes and technical assistance is provided," said Hammond. 

Despite the disruptions, 8,960 pupils wrote the CAT examination at 274 centres, according to Hammond.  

While it was unclear how long the power cuts would go on for, Mhlanga said there were contingency plans in place to deal with future disruptions.

"We, however, have a backup exam which can be scheduled if there are candidates who are not able to write this exam. Contingency plans are always put in place to accommodate situations of this nature," he added.

Meanwhile, parliament's basic education portfolio committee said it had noted Eskom's load-shedding announcement with "grave concern" because of the impact on the first day of the matric finals, particularly because the exams in question required the use of a computer.

Committee chair Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said: "We would like to appeal to Eskom to be cognisant of this fact when decisions of load-shedding are made and implemented. The NSC examinations are normally a very stressful period for our young people. When something like this happens and the examination must be halted, only to be continued when the electricity supply is restored, it can add to more stress."


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