The matric class of 2022 will sit for their final examinations towards the end of the month (25 October), faced with the prospect of load shedding, and following countless disruptions dating back to March 2020, when ​South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country’s first lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga has visited learners in a provincial prayer service in the Free State as part of the last push to get students mentally and emotionally prepared to write.

The minister said that the current matric class would have had to go through a storm over the last three years – “it made them the most disadvantaged cohort of learners”.

The impact of disrupted education following the Covid-19 outbreak was devastating, with learners between 75% and a full school year behind where they should be, according to a 2021 report by humanitarian organisation, UNICEF. Rotational attendance, sporadic school closures, and days off for specific grades, resulted in school children losing 54% of learning time.

Students have also had to deal with damaged property, and school closures following unrest which resulted in more than 140 schools being vandalized in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

And with two weeks to go before exams begin, students are faced with South Africa’s worst-ever electricity crisis, which has included up to eight hours of load shedding over the past several months, and a record number of days for power cuts ever.

“As a sector, we will have to swim with the tide,” said Motshekga on Sunday. “I can’t say that a sector we are immune.” However, the minister said that the department does communicate with the energy department.

“When we write exams we really do communicate a lot with the Department of energy to say during this period if possible we could just suspend power cuts, but I can’t guarantee that we will be able to fully do away with power cuts when there power cuts in the country. So we will have to navigate our way like everybody else navigates their way.”

Read: 2022 matric exams get the green light – but schools need to prepare for load shedding