Managing matric in a time of turmoil


For the majority or learners, matric is the most challenging year of their school careers - even under normal circumstances.

The current circumstances facing the Class of 2020 are unprecedented, and have caused massive upheaval and uncertainty on top of the challenges they would ordinarily have faced.

Even so, there are ways learners can adjust and respond to ensure they still make a success of the year, says the Independent Institute of Education's (IIE) Head of Programme, Wonga Ntshinga. 

“When some speak in the media about the year being a ‘write-off’, it is easy to be even more anxious," adding that "the Department of Basic Education is aware of this and there is little doubt that this group will be the first that will be allowed to return and time will be created to ensure that they can catch up – even if that means moving examinations into December."

While we wait for the DBE's confirmed plan of action, Ntshinga says there are a few things matriculants can do to stay focused and to prepare for the big return. 

The education expert also shares a few things pupils should remember to reduce stress and anxiety. 

Keeping stress to a minimum

Here's what Ntshinga says pupils should bear in mind in order to lessen anxiety: 

A measure of respect

Ntshinga notes that while matriculants will indeed lose out on some of the experiences normally reserved for this year of school, they are also now, forever, the cohort that had to succeed faced with these challenges, which will earn them a measure of respect.

Trying to follow every bit of advice may create anxiety 

Everywhere you look there is advice on how you should be coping and what you should be doing, and that you should have a healthy daily routine which includes learning, revision, exercise and sleep.

When you are struggling to do this, it adds to your anxiety.

Don’t beat yourself up if you are struggling to get to grips with this new way – it is challenging for everyone, and there is a lot of empathy and understanding for that, also on the part of your teachers.

However, for your own sake, you must try to show yourself every day that you are doing the best you can under the circumstances.

'Take what you do have and make the most of it

Any individual student is not alone here and can at least draw comfort from the fact that the decision-makers are as worried as you are.

It follows that what makes the most sense right now, is to take what you do have and what you must face, and make the most of it. 

By the time you get back to whatever the new plan will be – and there will be a plan – you have managed to get ahead of your own anxiety.

Practical tips for succeeding 

Ntshinga says that instead of trying to do it all, learners should keep their eyes focused on small victories and goals. 

Here's a look at his top tips on achieving success with remote learning: 

  • Getting through today, or a particular chapter, or a past paper are all achievements. Stacked on each other, they will carry learners through.
  • Identify the one or two things you can do every day that will mean success for you, and strive to get these done.
  • Aim for small successes every day, which will help to make sticking to routine the next day easier as you go along.

Tips for students living in small spaces with a large family

Ntshinga says getting things done might also call for some creativity, especially when living with a large family. 

  • You might try reaching an agreement with them regarding which times of day they need to give you some peace and quiet for studying. 
  • You could change the times you study – perhaps late at night when everyone else is sleeping, or an hour or two before everyone else wakes up.

Get to grips with the logistics of learning remotely

If your school is one of those who have been preparing for digital and online delivery and now offer dedicated learning platforms, it might take some time getting used to the ins and outs of the apps they are using.

  • Practise the ins and outs of these platforms, so the actual work that you are doing isn’t being slowed down by trying to navigate the app itself. 
  • Learners must also resolve to make the most of online classes by showing up, engaging and preparing as they would have for contact classes. 

Keep in mind your data usage if you are studying this way

Download something with your night-time data and come back to it the next morning. Save your data for your work, rather than wasting time and data watching movies online.

Find out about alternatives to school-provided resources 

He adds that those learners who do not have access to resources from their schools, should find out about the ones that are generally available, such as classes broadcast via the SABC (see links below) or through the platforms of some telecoms providers. 

Learners can also share ideas and resources with friends using WhatsApp.

Supplied by the Independent Institute of Education

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