TECHNICAL Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students have called for all of their 50 colleges to be also exempted from Eskom’s rolling load shedding as their electricity-connected technology practical studies had been severely affected.
The call came as Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan announced the government’s intention to appeal against the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria ruling that schools, health facilities and police stations should be exempted from load shedding.
The South African Technical Vocational Education and Training Student Association (SATVETSA), which is the mother body of TVET student representative councils, said students were losing many hours of studies because of power cuts which are at stage 6 and were feared to be escalating to stage 8.
For instance, on Wednesday some parts of Pietermaritzburg where there are five campuses, suffered four hours of load shedding during the day.
“The high level of failure is now also caused by load shedding because even last year there were colleges where teaching and learning were directly affected every day,” SATVETSA president Siyabonga Shabalala said.
Higher education spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi is yet to respond to questions sent to him.
South Africa has 50 TVET colleges that have 300 campuses and, according to Shabalala, their lack of basic services had been exacerbated by load shedding.
“There are TVET colleges that do not have simple basic things such as water and (flushed) toilets and they have pit toilets. So you can just imagine the magnitude of us being affected (by load shedding) in terms of teaching and learning,” he said.
He said doing assignments and studying for tests and exams at night had become a nightmare as many students rented backrooms where landlords also did not have generators as an alternative source of power and power cut prevented them from going to campuses to study at night.
He said at Gert Sibande TVET College in Mpumalanga, where he was studying, many students were forced to go to classes without taking a bath if there was no water and electricity.
Shabalala said load shedding had contributed to an “immeasurable proportion” of dropouts and failure rates at TVETs last year.
“Remember that as the engineering campus, we are producing artisans whose studies are done on electricity such as welding, automotive, and electrical engineering which are all outside theory and are 80% in jeopardy. If you go to our skills centres, everywhere in the country, all of them are shut down. The only thing that they do is to give them (students) theory,” he said.
He said some colleges, which were based in rural areas, depended on electricity to pump water to campuses. “Classes are dismissed if there is no water because of load shedding as campuses do not have boreholes and generators as backup systems. You have campuses that are rural like Mthashana, Vembe, Mopani South, Boland and many and there are countless that are affected because classes are dismissed on a daily basis.”
Shabalala commended Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi for successfully convincing the court to exempt the essential public institutions in a case brought by the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and 17 other complainants.
He said SATVETSA was prevented by not having money to pay lawyers from participating in the case.
Announcing the government’s intention to appeal the judgment, Gordhan said implementing the court order would put “undue risk on the country’s grid infrastructure”.
The court instructed Gordhan to “take all reasonable steps within 60 days” to ensure sufficient supply or generation of electricity to prevent any interruption of power supply to schools, hospitals and police stations.
Shabalala said the association would during the appeal proceedings be in court to offer moral support to Ngcukaitobi.
“It is unfortunate that as SATVETSA we don’t have money to fight our own government, but as NEC we have to support counsellor Ngcukaitobi as we are leading 530 000 students (across the country) and almost 400 000 of those are affected by load shedding,” he said.
He said SATVETSA would on May 30 meet deputy minister Buti Manamela. “We are going to lobby him (Manamela) to talk to the Treasury to inject funds for the institutions’ operational budget so that they can be able to afford alternative sources of power.”
During an interview with SAfm’s Sunrise show on Thursday morning, Build One SA (Bosa) leader Mmusi Maimane warned that his party would organise a mass protest if Gordhan continued with the appeal.
National Student Financial Aid Scheme website quoted Universities South Africa (USAf) chief executive Dr Phethiwe Matutu saying universities spent a huge part of their budget on fuel to power generators. He said during stage 3 load shedding smaller universities spent about R1 233 a day while larger universities spent about R19 6000 a day.
“For smaller universities, the amount spent on load shedding increases to R2 600, while for larger universities it increases to R2.2 million,” read the website.
After Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola had told Parliament in March that out of 500 courts in the country only 139 could function when there was no power supply, the department announced in April that 80 generators would be installed at various service points and courts countrywide.