- Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says higher learning institutions are under financial strain from load shedding.
- He says the department is considering putting forward a proposal for load shedding exemption during examinations.
- Nzimande adds institutions had approached the department to lament the high cost of running universities and colleges during rotational power outages.
Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande says higher learning institutions are counting the cost of load shedding, which disrupts teaching, learning, and the smooth running of exams.
He said institutions have backup generators that kicked in during scheduled blackouts, increasing running costs due to extra diesel and petrol prices.
Speaking during a NSFAS applications briefing on Tuesday, Nzimande added the higher education department would deliberate on proposing an exemption for universities and TVET colleges during load shedding, particularly during examinations, although he could foresee challenges with this.
"We don't know how this would work because other institutions may come up and say, 'we also want to be exempted', which, in essence, means the lights must be on for 24 hours.
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"That is the most immediate challenge facing the government, but it doesn't mean we will not look into it. Some institutions [are reporting that load shedding] is putting pressure on budgets," he said.
The minister, who had earlier praised efforts towards fixing Eskom, added it needed a permanent plan to address load shedding.
He said Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan's announcement of restructuring the Eskom board was one of the positive steps taken by the government "to make sure that load shedding becomes something of the past".
"In every district, there is an educational system. For us, there would be few districts where there isn't either a TVET college campus or community education or learning centre. Our footprint is in the whole country, but we have to try by all means to protect examinations, teaching, and learning in our institutions."
Nzimande's remarks come amid continued power outages, which have seen South Africans experience the longest stretch of load shedding, which has intensified to Stage 6.