What is it like writing matric exams in a pandemic?

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Curro Durbanville’s Class of 2020
Curro Durbanville’s Class of 2020

The matric year is a daunting one to begin with, but 2020 added lockdown learning and infection fears to the usual stress, leading to some parents and teachers calling for the year to be scrapped.

Students missed out on many opportunities, from their matric dance to a chance to captain the rugby team, and more. 

Many have dubbed 2020 the 'lost year' but it seems that for the majority of matric students the 2020 exams are going ahead, and the mock or prelim exams are in full swing across the country.

Parent24 spoke to Siyabonga Nhlapo, Head Boy at Curro Durbanville, to find out more about what it has been like to finish high school in a global pandemic.

"It has been stressful yet somewhat exhilarating," he told us.

"It’s been stressful in that the majority of matrics haven’t felt adequately prepared to write exams under Covid-19 circumstances," he clarified, adding that his school has been amazing in their support of students.

PRINT | Find the 2020 matric exam timetable here 

Fortunate to finish the academic year 

"They’ve had procedures in place, such as online learning, so that we didn’t lose class time. We’re very fortunate that we’ve been able to finish the academic year," Nhlapo said. 

We asked if this years exams where more stressful, compared to more 'normal' years, and he said that the first week of exams was very stressful compared to previous exam sessions. T

"The first week was hectic because we wrote every day so that trials could come to an end sooner," he explained. This was because the school wanted to give students enough time to study for finals.

"The Covid-19 procedures were also a bit stressful for us in the beginning and took some time to get used to," he said. 

Siyabonga Nhlapo

Siyabonga Nhlapo, Head Boy at Curro Durbanville 

Overall, Nhlapo says he is feeling very optimistic about the coming finals. "I’m an optimistic person and can turn any negative situation into a positive one. I’m looking forward to my finals," he told us. 

And what about his plans for next year?

"I'm excited! 2021 is going to be a different year while the world recovers from 2020," he said. "It’s amazing how it has taken a pandemic to bring humanity together this year."  

Nhlapo is hoping to study mechatronics engineering, potentially at either Stellenbosch University or UCT.  

A different experience 

While our teens are pretty resilient, what about the teachers who are holding it together for everyone? 

We asked Katherine Myburgh, Matric Grade Head at Curro Durbanville, for some insight. 

"Coping with teaching in the current environment has been a different experience, and has taken some time to get used to – especially when it involved teaching learners face-to-face in my classroom," she told Parent24, "while simultaneously teaching learners online (who were at home) via my laptop." 

While online teaching has been invaluable for the learners to keep up with their academic goals, it has also come with a few initial challenges, such as the lack of eye-contact, or learners often being reluctant to comment and contribute.  

The matric class of 2020 write their mock exams (C

Students at Curro Durbanville write their prelim exams

A level of anxiety 

We asked if she had noticed any different behaviours or outcomes among the learners as a result of lockdown and the Covid-19 protocols and Myburgh noted that some of the learners have risen to the occasion and have thrived during lockdown.

"Especially the more independent learners who are enjoying being able to manage their own time and who have a high level of self-discipline. We also noticed a keen interest from many learners during lockdown wanting to return to the structured school environment," she said.

"Now that it’s exam time, there is a level of anxiety among many of our matrics who did not have the usual June exams (which often feels like ‘round 1 of 3’ for the year’s exams), and are now feeling the pressure during prelims." 

"However myself and the school are all trying our best to ‘be on the pulse’ for our learners, helping with emotional support where we can," Myburgh added.

How are your teens coping with lockdown exams? Let us know!

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