Load shedding by Eskom has had a dire impact on Department of Basic Education officials marking matric exam papers.
Markers at Sir John Adamson High School in Johannesburg have been left without facilities to relieve themselves as pumps feeding water to the school have not been working at full capacity as a result of the power outages.
A marker who wished to remain anonymous for fears of victimisation told City Press that markers were working under dire constraints more so since they were expected to mark for twelve hours every day.
“We are here from 6:30am to 6:30pm and we are not allowed to leave the premises during these hours. Given that we had no access to water for days now, all the toilets have been locked and there is no ablution available.
“How can the department of education expect us to mark in these conditions?”
The marker added that the department expected them “to urinate under trees” where there was no privacy.
City Press has seen pictures of female markers relieving themselves while other colleagues hold up blankets to cover them.
“There are over 1000 people on the premises. There is also a tuckshop operating and making and selling food despite no water. This is such a health hazard. There has been no water since Saturday.”
“It is illegal to keep people in a public place without water, especially since we are not allowed to leave the centre – we are locked in,” said the infuriated marker.
Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told City Press that what had occurred at the marking centre was a result of load shedding.
“The system there was not able to pump water but the issue was resolved on Monday. So everything is fine now. Yes the incident took place but the inconvenience would have happened for a short while during the day when load shedding was happening because the markers do not sleep there,” said Mhlanga.
The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa executive director, Basil Manuel, told City Press that his organisation had been made aware of the situation last week.
“It appears as though the problem has been resolved. But of course it has been clouded in a little bit of haze. First of all, there is a centre manager that must be held to account and that should have explained what was really going on at that specific marking centre.”
“The story is that the school does not have water when there is no electricity because it uses a pump system. So at that time the centre manager ought to have seen that there were mobile toilets that were there and didn’t need the water system. However, they seem to have resolved the problem now, is the report we are getting,” said Manuel.
He added that the district in which the school is located also needed to share the blame “as the principal of the school is not the centre manager and this is where one of the problems lie, because principals are no longer centre managers, but they are the people who know how the systems at their respective schools lie”.
According to Manuel, “these issues are issues that centre managers should be resolving. Principals have run marking centres but it is unfair on them because it is holiday time and the principal is expected to be there for no extra remuneration for it and they have to solve the problems which are meant for the centre manager to resolve.”
“The problem is that now it seems like people from the department are the ones appointed to do this,” he said.
The union has called on the department of education to bear the brunt.
“The department has messed up because the department has appointed people who do not know how the school operates or how the school’s system works.”