Ursula Joubert, teacher at Oval North Technical High School
“At first I was excited because of my holiday being extended, but as time went on, I realised I don’t know when it will be safe to go back to school, and, for some, that might be a dream come true, but, for me, my actual dreams are put on hold.”
These are the words of one of the deputy head boys at Oval North Technical High School in Beacon Valley, Mitchell’s Plain.
His words echo the sentiments and initial responses of hundreds of matric pupils since the outbreak of the dreaded Covid-19, following the news that the lockdown has been extended until the end of April.
The first term of 2020 also came to an abrupt end and pupils left without the results of the controlled tests written in March.
After having dealt with the initial shock of Covid-19, reality dawned on many students and teachers when all realised the impact it will have on the academic year.
A sudden bombardment of e-learning and online educational platforms hit the school community in a similar way that this unseen virus hit our country.
Many teachers frantically explored ways to connect with their pupils, and, for most of them, WhatsApp was the medium of choice.
Not realising the impact it would have, teachers sent the second-term’s assignments and assessment tasks through to pupils who quickly became overwhelmed, with pupil Taylia Dirks noting: “Teachers give us so many activities at once. There are times when I cry because it is so frustrating, times when I don’t even sleep and lie awake at night, thinking of possible ways to get over this.”
Besides the sense of being overwhelmed, others were concerned about the lack of data, resources, and help from parents.
Tyra Ward says: “I sincerely hope that the Department of Education does not only make decisions from an adult perspective but put themselves in the shoes of the pupils and think about how it will affect them not only now but their future as well.”
Shaniquah Karriem says she longs to be among her classmates, making memories and enjoying their last year at school, sitting at desks and being taught by teachers.
While the Department for Basic Education is busy with a recovery plan for this academic year, which could result in longer school hours and work weekends, it would be advisable to consider the emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic on our pupils.
As Professor Jonathan Jansen puts it, our children can and must not be treated as cognitive machines to be switched on after the trauma of Covid-19.
The final year of school is a very important year and life event for many of our pupils in our communities. Not only is the privilege of being in matric and also completing it a great achievement for many children in Beacon Valley, it is also important to the whole community.
With a very good pass rate of 90.8% in 2019, this class of 2020 were looking forward to improving on that and making their principal proud, according to Laiqah Jansen.
Given the uncertainties that we are facing, matriculants will likely have minimal contact time, and as the Department of Basic Education seeks ways to rescue this academic year, consideration must be given to the factors mentioned in this article so that no learner is left behind.