After a strict lockdown period, our children have started school life again. We chat to two learners who returned to school on 8 June, and two teachers, to hear how they are settling in and adjusting to the many changes they are encountering. 

Refilwe is in Grade 12. This is her Matric year, an important year. 

‘’I was a bit nervous to go back to school, but very excited because I was going to see my friends and teachers, and happy that I was going to carry on with my education. Online learning was a bit difficult. My parents were ok with the fact that I was going back to school to learn, but my mom is a bit nervous because of Covid-19.

I wear a face mask in class, and always keep a hand sanitizer with me. There are small changes like the desks being further apart, and we have fewer students in the class, about 92%. The other 8% can’t come to school for personal reasons. I attend both class and Zoom lessons because some of the teachers are over 60 and have to teach via Zoom lessons.

I am worried about Covid-19, that I might get it without realizing it, and if anyone from school gets it, the school will have to close again, which will be more weeks of my last year of school wasted. I am concerned about catching up with school work, because now we have to work at a faster pace than usual, or else we won’t be able to finish the syllabus.’’

What would you like to do when you leave school?
“I want to study Psychology at the University of Pretoria.’’ 

Jaime is in Grade 5. 

“I was a bit scared about returning to school, but also excited to see my teachers and friends. My parents were happy and nervous. I feel happy now, but everything still feels weird to me. Our desks are spread further apart now. There are cameras to Zoom. We sanitize when we walk in, we use a mask, and social distance with a hula hoop. 

I felt sad and a bit scared at first with lockdown, but I was happy to be home with my family. We will have to get used to our new normal and figure out what the new normal is. We might wear masks forever. I’m worried that Covid-19 will spread more, and not get any better. I talk to my mom.”

What would you like to do when you’ve left school? 

“I want to be a radio presenter or a psychologist.” 

Rosslyn is a Grade 8-12 teacher

Rosslyn returned to school on 27 May. She is only teaching Grade 12’s currently, due to their phased in approach directed by the Department of Basic Education. 

“On day 1 I was anxious as I had to remember all the new procedures and protocols that had to be followed. I am a lot more relaxed now. I have had time to process coming back to school and have gotten used to how things are going to be working from now on. I am cautious about what I do to keep myself and the learners safe.

My learners were excited to see their friends, but were overwhelmed about returning and following all the new procedures. They are more relaxed about everything now. They are worried about their matric year – how it has changed, and the upcoming exams.

Hands are sanitized upon entry, learners must wear masks at all times, desks are placed far enough apart to adhere to social distancing, and electronic resources are the preferred source. 

I do not use my original classroom anymore. We have been divided into bigger venues such as our halls, auditoriums and our biggest classrooms in order to fit enough learners in within the safest distance. Our timetables have been adjusted accordingly. Around 98% of my learners are present. 

Lockdown affected the amount of work they completed. Some of them did not have all the resources available, such as computers and data. Others lacked self-motivation to do self-study, or they had too many distractions at home. It has also affected them emotionally as they were not in contact with any friends, and their matric year has changed completely from what they imagined. 

Some learners are scared about Covid-19, because they are scared of being infected. They possibly live with older family members plus follow the news and statistics. I reassure them that they should follow all the procedures and protect themselves as much as they can. They should always follow the protocols set out.”

Judy returned to school on 1 June.

Judy teaches Grade 4 and 5 Bridging classes.

“I was very happy to return to a semblance of a normal day. I was not worried, just excited. My only concern was streamlining Zoom lessons alongside teaching in the classroom.

My learners were quiet at first, not sure what to expect, but after a day or two they started opening up, relaxing and chatting, and then they became the giggly, happy kids I know. They have settled into a new pattern, kids are resilient and open to change. Being back at school has been a good move for all.

We use face masks and/or shields, hand sanitiser and hula hoops for social distancing. The desks are one and a half metres apart, all carpets and material has been moved from class. We combine Zoom lessons with lessons in class. I have 80-90% of my learners in class.

Lockdown was positive for my learners in the way that they have become more independent in their learning, and most have had quality family time. It was negative in that social and emotional issues have surfaced, and time will tell how they are affected long term. I am confident our kids will come out tougher and able to cope with whatever comes their way, with God’s help and strength.”

So, the children and teachers are, on the whole, settling in well. They are getting used to their ‘new normality’. 

A learner comment:Do we get the option to redo 2020?”


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