As SA heads towards our Covid-19 peak, matrics and Grade sevens are being given a week off school, and other grades will only return in late August

As the most affected, matric students are panicking about the long-term impact these disruptions will have on their final results – especially for those who are dependent on their exam marks being released in time for the start of the 2021 university academic year.

We spoke to matric students at a KZN high school about their fears for their futures and their families. Most of these brave young women are more concerned about infecting elderly grandparents due to their possible exposure at school, but they are meeting the challenges of this pandemic head-on, with courage and determination.

This is what they had to say about whether schools should remain open, and how more disruptions to their academic year will affect their plans for their futures…

Maxime: “It’s quite scary to realise that the numbers are climbing very high. I am scared but I will not matriculate next year: I’m finishing this year!

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“I think the best thing to do is to close schools, but allow matrics to still come to school, and obviously take extra precautions. Let the rest do work from home and then allow the rest of the grade to write tests, not big exams cause we are under a lot of stress and the added extra of exams will be too much for the younger grades. The matrics must finish this year or there will be a backlog and there will not be anyone going to university next year which will be a big problem”.

Lindani: ” So personally like I got mixed feelings. a part of me isn’t really comfortable and happy being back at school especially now that cases have risen. Not only are they putting *us* at risk but they’re also putting our families at risk.
Notice how I don’t say we’re putting “ourselves” at risk, because we’re basically forced to go back because obviously parents will take us to school.

“I mean, would it be easy to study from home and still be ready for finals? No. But is it worth risking our lives? It’s hard thinking about extending the year into next year, because honestly we want to carry on with our lives, not put a standstill to it but are we really in charge of that at this point?”

Jennifer: “I’m scared because I am at higher risk because of respiratory problems. I would prefer to finish this year because the cases next year would be higher and I’d be at higher risk. I would not be able to study from home because I have concentration problems along with other problems that make it much more difficult for me to study from home, so I would not be ready for finals”.

Tiffany: “To be honest, I kind of feel detached from the whole situation. It’s one thing hearing about the rapid increase of cases on the news and it’s another thing to actually experience it. School still feels like school because nothing major has really changed.

“I’m more scared for my grandparents than I am for myself. I stay with with my grandparents so there’s always the fear that I’ll bring something home with me”

“If it was possible, I’d rather cancel the year without having to repeat it. I feel like this school year has been a bit stressful and I know I’m not confident about the work I did by myself during lockdown. Working from home doesn’t really work for me, but I’d rather do the online lessons than having to repeat the year”.

Kaia: “I did feel safe at the being of going back to school as the whole high school wasn’t there and they were more strict and the students were following the rules. But now that there are more students back, many of them are not social distancing themselves and are acting like there isn’t a pandemic happening. So I’m scared because they also get too close to me and if I get the virus it can be very serious for me as I am asthmatic.

“Grade 12s should be at school and not younger grades as they can finish the work the following year. I’m very scared as I don’t want to put my family in danger but at the same time I need to go to school.

“I don’t think repeating the year is a good idea because it will mess up the whole education system in South Africa. At our school I didn’t see as much online teaching as other schools. At other schools they would have set times and would have a Zoom call every lesson.

“I know some people can’t afford the data, but with us not at school the school fees should fall so that all students have the money to pay for enough data. And with that, if we had more Zoom call online lessons for the subjects that need them (like Maths), I feel like we would be ready for finals… but at this moment I don’t feel ready”.

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Kayla: “I feel super anxious about going back (especially having parents and family with underlining conditions) and I’ve got a lot of stress about finishing all the projects and the work for my subjects with only 5 weeks till trials.

“I’m scared about being back. I don’t want to cancel school and repeat cause that scares me way more, and gives me much more anxiety. Online school would be way better as I can do the stuff at my own pace and not have the stress from school and kids there”.

Teagan: “I’m worried mainly because my family and I have underlying health issues so it’s a major risk going to school every day, but I feel like since I have a smaller school with a good system of preventing the spread, it’ll be okay in the end.

“I’d prefer to finish the year as soon as possible and not have to restart although we missed a lot of important in class time. I feel if we just stick to the schedule put out by our teachers we’ll be okay in the end.

“If we do have to close schools again, since we are reaching our peak, I think having online classes will be sufficient until finals / trials. The only con of having online school is that not everyone will have access to it and with load shedding recently starting again, that would also cause a problem”.