President Cyril Ramaphosa shattered my heart with his announcement that schools are going to close for a second time!
I am a mother and a teacher for special needs learners in a township school. I got chills as my mind replayed everything we, my own kids and my learners, have been through since we started with the new abnormal when they returned to school.
It was heartbreaking!
My own two kids are in Grade 3 and 6. They are totally confused now. My eldest wants to know why since there are no cases at their school and their sanitizing and social distancing are in place and working perfectly.
Yes, everything is weird, but they can handle it. With my daughter (in Grade 3) it is something different. She is not coping and might even be depressed. She wants to play and socialize with her friends.
Being at school she can at least talk to them and laugh with them. And she can have a little normal being at school with her friends and her teacher. Being somewhere else not than just at home.
But my own kids are not my biggest worry because they have me.
I am worried about the learners in my class, my other kids. I am the mother of many. Having learning barriers makes all of this even worse!
Some of them I only saw once before the school closed again. It was quite a task to get them to school as most of their parents do not have a cellphone. Many letters and SMS's later all of them got word that they should be at school.
They were also attending alternating days, so some of them came on the wrong days and some even every day. It took some time to get them to understand that they only need to attend every second day.
My biggest heartache was for my class.
No more giggles. No more laughing. No more mischief.
They sat worlds apart from each other with huge eyes looking scared at me above their masks. Some of them were too scared to breathe as they might get sick.
There was this belief that the virus is at school because now they have to sanitize and wear masks and stay far away from each other.
When they go home they don't have to wear a mask and they can play with their friends. Each of them has their own box with stationery and books since they are not allowed to share anymore, something they were taught.
Sharing is caring. Not anymore!
Construction activities are something of the past because we are not allowed to share and sit at the same table. So no more building toy bridges as a team. No more baking biscuits as part of Life Skills. It too is a team effort.
No more holding your teacher's hand when walking to the gate in the afternoon, which made the poor little girl cry because she can not understand why her teacher pulled her hand away when she wanted to hold it, even though it was explained that holding hands is not allowed.
She is only 8 years old! Plans were being made to adjust like a ribbon to "hold" your teacher's hand.
And just as we almost started to understand and get used to this, BAM! School closes again!
We almost started to get used to having your temperature taken twice a day, to sanitize every time you move, to wearing a mask all day and hyperventilating because it feels as if you can't breathe, to talking very loud to make sure you can be heard, to no sharing anything, being scared to take off your mask to eat, to mastering the panic, to facing the fear and to fight the anxiety.
And now school is closed again, and the worrying starts. Are they safe? Do they wear their masks and keep their distance? Do they have enough food? Do they know they can get food at school?
I did tell the learners that last Friday. Did they convey the message that the feeding program continues? I pray they did. I pray for their safety and wellbeing.
So we will be starting from scratch again when school opens. We will again learn to master panic, face fear and fight anxiety. We will start again to adjust to the abnormal because we do not have a choice.
We will overcome the new abnormal! We will do this every time.
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