Pardon Makura is an instrumentation and control technician at Eskom’s Medupi Power Station in Lephalale, South Africa. He was awarded the City & Guilds of London Institute’s Gold Medal for Excellency in Electronics in 2002, and earned the Licentiateship (LCGI) Diploma in Electronics,  in 2006.

And now he is an Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) alumnus. He completed one of our Certificate Courses in 2012 and at the end of 2016 he graduated from our Advanced Diploma in Electrical & Instrumentation Engineering for Mining.

Makura works in electrical instrumentation at Medupi Power Station, but was eager to talk about general developments in the power generation industry in South Africa, “Lately, there has been a lot of deliberation on plans to generate power from nuclear energy.”

 

Eskom, South Africa’s electricity utility, intends to produce 9.6GW of nuclear energy in the near future. The utility issued a request for proposals in December 2016; opening it up to foreign specialists proficient in nuclear energy and interested in constructing a new nuclear power station in the country.

Nuclear power is controversial. It is a particularly sensitive topic with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor accident still fresh in everyone’s minds and that anxiety hasn’t been eased with countries like Germany opting to move away from nuclear power completely.

 

Makura says that he has his reservations regarding the safety aspects when it comes to building new nuclear facilities in South Africa. He wonders what assurances the government can give to South Africans if they do, indeed, proceed with their plans. He notes the recent nuclear plant disasters as a leading cause for concern - they could happen to any facility.

Despite the general disquiet South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Nesca) chairman Kelvin Kemm, however, is certain the country can make a success of a new nuclear power station project. He spoke to Fin24, saying:

“Over forty years ago, in collaboration with foreign partners, South Africa embarked on the construction of Koeberg nuclear power station. That decision turned out to be a great success. This time around we can do even better.”

Image credit: Pixabay.com

 

The maintenance of nuclear energy power stations is the key to their efficient and safe operation. Pardon Makura believes e-Learning could be the answer to the education and training needs that are likely to emerge with these proposed projects. The online platform of learning allows engineers and technicians to up-skill without giving up work, and means that the best courses and college can be selected. He says:

“I think e-Learning is where the education system is headed worldwide in this era of technology and it’s a matter of time before it becomes the default system particularly in tertiary and professional education.”

 

Makura, of course, lives in South Africa, where tertiary education fee protests may soon be reignited as the academic year begins. The likelihood of this has been increased with the South African Further Education and Training Student Association (Safetsa) saying that they will be standing in solidarity with the Fees Must Fall movement. They aim to shut down all 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college campuses in the country, starting this January.

 

The protests are also related to the delays in results and certificates; according to South Africa’s Independent Online News Source, some students have not received their results or certificates since 2012.

 

This hiatus is damaging to the economy, as essential as they are, South Africa is failing to produce artisans and tradesmen and women proficient in specialised technical and vocational skills. The finger is being pointed at the Department of Higher Education.

 

Makura maintains that the answer could be the expansion of e-Learning institutions:

“The government needs to invest human and financial resources into e-Learning because it is not something that is just on paper but a reality! It worked quite well for me because it enabled me to further my education whilst I continued with my work requirements, so it was a ‘win-win’ situation. The major challenge was to make sure that I had good internet access on demand’.

 

Congratulations Pardon, we at the EIT wish you every success and hope to see you back when you further your education online.

 

Works Cited

"Eskom Fires Starting Gun on Nuclear Plan." Fin24. 20 Dec. 2016. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.

"TVET Students Threaten to Shutdown Colleges." IOL. 19 Jan. 2017. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.