Parents and members of the public have expressed outrage at the effect that load shedding has had on matric exams across the country, with at least 30 centres in the Western Cape left in the dark on Wednesday morning.
Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijha Mhlanga said the extent of the impact had not yet been established nationally because they were still waiting for provinces to report back.
"[Eskom's] announcement is extremely unfortunate as it coincides with the start of the matric exams and the subjects (Computer Applications Technology [CAT] and Information Technology) that need power are being written," he said.
"We are monitoring the situation closely ourselves. We will look into the possibility of engaging Eskom with a view to alerting them to the negative effect the power cuts may have on national exams."
Mhlanga said that there was a backup exam which could be scheduled if there were matric students who were not able to write because of load shedding.
"Contingency plans are always put in place to accommodate situations of this nature."
Fin24 reported that Stage 2 load shedding would start at 09:00 on Wednesday morning and that national rotational power outages may last until 23:00. Eskom blamed the situation on a broken coal conveyor belt at the Medupi power station.
DA public enterprises spokesperson and MP Natasha Mazzone said they had been receiving concerned calls from principals and teachers across the country regarding the impact of blackouts on the CAT practical exam.
Protocols in place
Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said they were aware of about 30 exam centres which had been affected, but were still waiting for final numbers.
A total of 8 960 pupils were writing the CAT exam at 274 centres in the province on Wednesday.
Hammond said all district offices were immediately informed to put their existing protocols in place for electricity shortages.
"These protocols include ensuring that no learner leaves the examination venue should the electricity cut out, and that they are instead quarantined until electricity resumes and technical assistance is provided," she said.
"Learners that had already begun the exam, will continue with where they left off once the electricity comes back on. There is an automatic save function so that learners do not lose the work already completed in event of an electrical shortage or malfunctioning."
She said the same protocol would apply for Thursday's Information Technology exam, which was being written by 939 pupils at 83 centres.
People took to social media to express their anger and frustration at the effect of power outages on the exams.
'Computers require electricity'
One woman said on Facebook: "Well done Eskom for starting loadshedding on the day the matrics start writing their finals with CAT practical. How do you use a computer with no power?"
Someone else stated: "How come there is Load Shedding just after the huge tariff increase you requested was rejected? Also our matrics started exams today, CAT which required power so they can complete exams on Computer, or maybe Eskom does not know, Computers require electricity."