Loadshedding continues to disrupt education during the school holidays
Statement by Minister David Maynier, Minister of Education Western Cape
While schools are currently closed for the mid-year break, loadshedding continues to cause serious disruption to education in the Western Cape. The winter break is a critical time for our students: winter school and revision programmes are underway, which are especially important for our matrics as they count down the weeks until the National Senior Certificate exams.
Districts across the province have reported that loadshedding is posing a serious challenge to the implementation of these programmes.
The challenges include students arriving late, because it is not safe to walk to their transport when there is loadshedding where they live. The power cuts have left classrooms dark, with students having to shift around to venues with enough natural light. Teachers and facilitators cannot use overhead projection or eLearning tools during certain times, and streamed lessons to some schools have had to be cancelled as they had no power to receive them.
In addition, students accessing our ePortal resources from home are affected, with power cuts leaving both website servers and student’s homes without electricity. Online tutors must move from place to place to ensure that they are in an area not scheduled for a blackout when they hold their tutoring sessions. Even cell phone reception dips in some areas because loadshedding affects cell towers.
The Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute, which has a full programme of training for staff during the holidays, has also been significantly affected – particularly the ICT and online courses.
The impact is not only felt on teaching and learning: meal times for programmes where students receive a meal have had to be moved around to times when electricity is available. Some of our Safe Schools programmes had to be postponed or cancelled. Staff at our district offices are frequently without internet connectivity or phone access.
The Department is ensuring that the majority of our programmes can go ahead, despite the disruption and frustration. We thank our office-based staff, teachers, and facilitators for thinking on their feet to ensure that some teaching and learning can still take place. And we thank our students for their continued commitment to making the most of these learning opportunities.
We are, however, deeply concerned that learning will be more severely disrupted if loadshedding does not end in time for the start of the third term. We need to recover from profound learning losses caused by the pandemic, and we simply cannot do so without a reliable electricity supply.
Already our schools have been taking steps to ensure that they have a more reliable power supply. The Department has received 41 applications from schools thus far seeking approval for the installation of solar panels. Others are making plans to have emergency lighting and battery power in place during loadshedding.
To reduce demand on the grid, the LED lighting project in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch – which sees the replacement of outdated fluorescent lights with LED lights – has projected savings of 11 742kWh per year per school, while reducing their electricity bills.
We have measures in place to ensure that matric exams can continue later in the year, including the use of generators for computer-based practicals, and clear protocols to maintain the integrity of exam sittings during power failures.
We will continue to do everything we can to support schools in managing the impact of loadshedding, to ensure that no matter what Stage the country finds itself in, quality education can continue in the Western Cape.
Spokesperson to Minister David Maynier
Western Cape Ministry of Education