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Lockdown Generation: Grade 12 Learner On How COVID-19 Disrupted Her Most Precious Academic Year

NYAKALLO TEFU

THATO Bame, a Grade 12 learner from the Westridge High School in Johannesburg, says there is a lot more to be apprehensive about since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Bame says the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has turned her world upside down, disrupted her most precious academic year and almost dashed her hopes of ever going to university or college in 2021 to pursue a bachelor degree in nursing sciences.

“This has been the toughest year of my schooling career. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work we have now to catch up. I am panicking because its test after test and at the same time I am hoping I don’t contract the coronavirus,” said Bame.  

 “I really am panicking. The teachers are trying their best but I feel like I am not coping with everything.”

According to UNESCO, over 1 billion school learners globally were forced to sit at home when governments announced national lockdowns and shut down schools early this year.

In May this during the lockdown, Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga promised a ‘massive catch-up’ recovery plan to prevent the coronavirus pandemic inflicting long-term damage on children’s education and development.

The sector’s recovery plans, she said, would include extra lessons over the weekend, adding extra hours to the school day and introducing school camps or hostels to salvage this academic year.

The sector is also considering a range of partner organisations to support all pupils who have been affected by school closures.

Bame’s school has introduced the Secondary School Improvement Programme (SSIP) classes in order for learners to catch up on lost time.  

“I am really upset about this setup. I don’t like that we have to go to school from Monday until Sunday. We never rest and it is just too much. I can’t find time to juggle assignments and so much homework. It is irritating and annoying,” says Bame.

Bame says attending SSIP classes is not a must but as the teachers put it, “it is your loss”. 

“I just want to go to school between Monday and Friday. On weekends I can do my work and assignments from home,” says Bame.

The ambitious, energetic 17-year-old says preliminary exams are about to start in September and she feels their matric year poses a big challenge to many Grade 12 learners.

“If we wrote June exams we wouldn’t have to work extra hard for the prelims and finals just to make up for missing the June exams,” says Bame.

“I feel like this year is a waste of time because everything has to be done in a short space of time, but I have to use what I have so I don’t find myself doing nothing in 2021.”

As if this was not enough, COVID-19 has also introduced a new paradigm at schools – mandatory wearing of cloth masks, sanitizing hands and keeping a social distance during schools to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

As of Monday, a total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa stood at 97 302 with 4 621 new cases identified.

Bame says social distancing will be particularly difficult for many learners to get used to during the phased reopening of schools.

In South Africa, the social impact of coronavirus has also had far-reaching implications for least 9.6 million school children from poor backgrounds because they could not receive adequate food and nutrition during the lockdown.

“We are facing the most difficult period as learners. We hope things get better in the near future and we get back to normal schooling,” says Bame.

(Compiled by Inside Education staff)

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