Illegal connections to blame for leaving learners in the dark, says Eskom

Staff of Bloekombos High School make photocopies at neighbouring schools for exams

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Bloekombos High School in Cape Town has been without proper electricity for three weeks. They are currently relying on a generator. Photo: Vincent Lali

  • Learners and staff at Bloekombos High School have been struggling without proper electricity for about three weeks now.
  • Eskom says the problem is ultimately caused by the illegal connections made by the shack dwellers who live close to the school.
  • The school uses a generator but it costs R1,000 to refill per day.
  • Teachers are working in dark classrooms, learners without internet access at home struggle with assignments, and staff have to make photocopies for exams at neighbouring schools.

It’s been four months since Bloekombos High learners marched to Eskom’s local Kraaifontein office to ask that their school be connected to electricity. But they remain in the dark.

Learners say they are struggling to cope during their June exams without access to electricity.

In February the learners demanded that Eskom restore electricity supply to their school. At the time, the school had been without consistent supply for several months.

Eskom then temporarily fixed the problem until about three weeks ago when electricity was cut again. According to Eskom, the illegal connections from surrounding informal settlements had blown a fuse which they replaced.

Sources at the school say staff spends over R1,000 to refill one of the generators every weekday.

France Nyambi, who teaches Life Orientation, said teachers are struggling to prepare reports for all 2,000 learners because the computers are off. “Classrooms are dark, so learners can’t see properly. Lack of electricity will adversely affect their exam results. Today all the grades wrote exams, but we struggled to make photocopies of exam papers for all of them,” he said.

Nyambi urged Eskom to come up with a permanent solution.

Another teacher, Winstson Williams, said he has to read out loud to learners in his class instead of giving them printed handouts. “I normally explain things to them for 20 minutes and give them copies afterwards. Now I must read for them because I can’t make copies for them,” he said.

Matriculant, Liyahluma Oliphant, said the lack of electricity at school forces learners without other access to the internet and power to submit their research assignments late. “In the afternoon I use a torch to light a classroom and study for the June exams,” she said. “Our textbooks contain old information. When the teachers used projectors, they exposed us to the latest information. Today we started the exams late because our teachers were tied up, making photocopies for the whole school.”

School Governing Body chairman, Mbulelo Ncedani, said the school’s pass rate has been dropping because of the school’s electricity problems. “By denying the learners access to electricity, Eskom is destroying their future. We want Eskom to deal with this issue urgently. Teachers are struggling as they now have to go to other schools to photocopy exam papers.”

He said some parents want Eskom to install a separate electricity pole in the school’s yard that will be inaccessible to the nearby shack dwellers.

Eskom senior technician Kobus Lamprecht told GroundUp the power utility was waiting for the municipality to approve a wayleave for them to build a new line for the school.

“The current problem is with the high voltage cable to the school. It’s not yet clear what is wrong with the cable. Two or three shacks must be removed. The school has no electricity currently because the fuses have been damaged again.”

Subcouncil manager Amelia van Rhyn met the learners, teachers and community leaders to discuss the electricity supply problem at Kraaifontein municipality. She said all but one department had signed Eskom’s wayleaves.

Western Cape Education of Education spokesperson Millicent Merton said: “The school started experiencing problems and reported it to Eskom who promised to send out a technician.”

Merton said the school is using a generator to continue with teaching and learning.

Eskom spokesperson Kyle Cookson said Eskom informed shack dwellers whose homes are preventing technicians from doing repair work. “Eskom has also engaged with stakeholders and the local councillor who is aware of the request for access to the cable so that repairs can begin promptly,” he said

Cookson said Wallacedene residents also marched to Eskom in Kraaifontein on Tuesday to complain about the “endless electricity supply problems”.

“Illegal connections, cable theft and vandalism are a major problem in Bloekombos and Wallacedene,” he said.

TOPICS:  Education Electricity

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