Pupils in the dark, teachers prep at home as Eskom ‘punishes defaulters’

Eskom pulled the plug just before the school holidays started. 
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Eastern Cape teachers were forced to print exam papers at home and pupils wrote tests in cold, dark classrooms due to unpaid electricity bills.

More than 10 schools in the Alfred Nzo municipality have been operating without power for weeks after Eskom pulled the plug on defaulting customers.

A teacher from Burgersdorp Primary School, in the Joe Gqabi district municipality, told TimesLIVE that the school had been without electricity for more than six weeks.

She said exam papers had to be printed at a colleague’s home. Pupils wrote exams in “cold classrooms”, in poor light.

“It has been an extremely difficult and cold term. The power has really hindered us. Other teachers had to go to the local library or an internet cafe to print their work.

“The phones at the school are also down, so it was difficult to communicate with the department of education. The principal had to use his personal cellphone to call the department.”

The teacher said she hoped power would be restored by the time schools reopened.

Provincial education department spokesperson Mali Mtima said on Friday that Eskom had pulled the plug just before the school holidays started.

“These schools are connected on conventional meters and we are trying to change them into the modern meters, so that each school can pay electricity individually,” Mtima said.

The department had acted “swiftly” and had a “series of meetings” with the power utility, Mtima said.

“We told them [Eskom] we are working on the matter and are in the process of paying them. The payment was at an advanced stage and within a week or so the matter will be resolved.”

Mtima said Eskom had been asked to reconnect the schools now to “ensure that the schools will be safe and the alarm will go off [in case of break-ins]”.

On Friday, Eskom asked for more time to answer questions about the power cuts. This article will be updated when the power utility responds.

A spokesperson at the Alfred Nzo municipality referred requests for comment to the education department.




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