In March when Covid-19 cases in South Africa started to increase, the South African government decided to close schools. Now, after almost two months in lockdown, it has been announced that Grade 7 and 12 learners will return to classes on 1 June 2020.
DRUM speaks to two Grade 12 learners to find out how they feel about going back to school, and how the lockdown has affected their studies.
Zimvo Ntwana (Isilimela Comprehensive School)
“When the lockdown was first announced, I was a bit happy because I thought it was going to be a longer holiday since the March holidays were approaching. I didn’t think it was going to last this long. I thought after the Easter weekend, everything would go back to normal as announced on the news,” Zimvo says.
“This has affected my study routine in a negative way. I used to come back from school, eat and sleep. Then wake up in the early mornings at around 2am to study and do my work, but now all of that has changed. It is difficult to study at home. I get really lazy when I'm at home. Also, to me it’s easier to have a teacher first teach me something then do the work at the end than to just do everything without all the required information.”
So, with the announcement that schools are re-opening, Zimvo’s hope for her future has been restored.
“I'm excited because it means I'm going to get the chance to actually do more schoolwork and know what will happen with my future. At the moment, I just don't know. I just really hope they do open in June and the lockdown won't be extended.”
Zimvo has some advice for other matriculants: “Learners should start working now because when schools reopen, it will just be work all the way and learners who weren’t studying at home will just fall behind.”
Baby Sihu (Advance for Life Christian Academy)
In contrast, Baby in the Eastern Cape feared for her health and her studies when the lockdown was first announced.
“I was scared because the lockdown confirmed that Covid-19 is a reality. I mean, I had read about lockdown in the news and suddenly it became something I was going to experience first-hand. It scared me. At first, I was excited at the thought of closing schools a bit earlier, but I hadn’t imagined it would be for so long. I thought everything would die down after two weeks and schools would reopen.
“So, when the president announced the lockdown extension, I was devastated. I still am. I did not see it coming, or at least I thought the Grade 12s would be allowed to camp at school,” she tells us.
“I wouldn't say I had a study routine before. My studies were aligned with the work I did at school; so, when I got home, I would work on the things I had learnt at school that day. If I had time, I would read ahead. Now that there's no school all of that is gone. Everything I knew has changed. Every way to study has changed. It's hectic.
“The time for studying is indefinite – I make it up as I go because now there are many factors involved. At night I try to study the most because during the day it’s chaotic and busy. I have chores which have multiplied since everyone is at home now. Also, factor in the noise, not forgetting social distractions too. Forming a study routine is a hard thing to do,” she continues.
For Baby, studying at home isn’t practical, even with modern technology – the traditional way of learning is still the better option for her.
“Studying at home is undoubtedly the hardest thing ever, almost impossible to be honest. I'm sure it's not just me who feels that way. Ask any Grade 12 student and they will tell you. For me, academics is already hard enough with a teacher standing in front of me. Now you can imagine how hard it is to teach yourself stuff that you've never learnt and be able to grasp those things.
“I mean, if it were revision then it would be easier. Also, the online learning programmes aren’t as effective because of the lack of data and the way things are being taught. The only way studying helps is if there's adequate access to the teacher and for now the only way that’s possible is if done in the classroom. There are many distractions too.
“At this point, I don't know. I want to go back to school because the minister did say that by hook or crook, we are writing our Grade 12 final examinations. So, the sooner we get back to the classroom, the higher the chances of catching up.”
This doesn’t mean her fear of the virus and its effects have vanished. “At the same time, Covid-19 is spreading like a wildfire. Either way it is a risk. The risk of losing the academic year is also there.”
She advises other learners to do as much as they can with the resources they have. “At some point we will have to get over the shock and unfreeze. The circumstances are hard, I know, but we need to try to learn how to work amidst this lockdown. Let's learn to study and succeed with these new parameters in place. Do what you can, as hard as you can, and just brace yourself for what’s next. Don't put too much pressure on yourself – it's not your fault.”
An Eastern Cape woman, who is a mother to a Grade 12 learner, tells us she’s very happy to send her child back to school.
“We are in the Mdantsane township, and I imagine most townships in the country are experiencing the same thing. It’s better if these children go back to school because it’s not like they’re sitting at home, adhering to the lockdown regulations anyway.
“If you look outside, they’re filling the dusty streets in large groups, playing and touching one another – so what’s better? At least at school they will be learning and the governing bodies will make sure they’re sanitised and not sitting too close to one another. I’m still paying my daughter’s school fees, this is painful because I don’t have a formal job, so the money comes in under very difficult circumstances.”