COVID-19 has profoundly disrupted every aspect of daily life across the globe. We are united in a struggle to make sense of the drastic changes, adapt as best we can and cope with a future that has never felt so completely uncertain. Of course, no one has it easy, but the young people in their final year of school will be feeling the challenges of the global pandemic in a unique way. On the cusp of putting their school days behind them and entering into a new world where they carve out their futures as adults, they now find themselves in a potentially long-lasting limbo, hanging between two vastly different worlds.
As in many other countries, South African educational departments and schools have rushed to enable mass online education in an effort to create some kind of continuity. It’s the kind of vast experiment that would never had happened voluntarily in the education sector, which is notoriously conservative and has been largely stubbornly resistant to disruption via innovation. By necessity, 2020 will now be a matric year like no other.
How will our young South Africans cope with #matricunderlockdown?
Counselling Psychologist and Head of Teaching and Learning at SACAP (The South African College of Applied Psychology), Lauren Martin, points out that the current matric cohort has some generational advantages to help them navigate the changes to their grade 12 year. “Our Matrics, who are part of Generation Z, have grown up with technology and the digital space is part of their everyday lives,” she says. “In fact, Gen Z students usually are eager to learn new skills, watch lessons online, make use of eBooks and connect and study with peers virtually. For many Matrics, the digital change in the education space may be more welcomed then resisted. Gen Z’s also need a cause to get behind and they will strive to find meaning in the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gen Z’s are socially aware of what is happening worldwide. With technology and the access to an abundance of information at their fingertips, it is not surprising that Gen Z’s are getting behind social causes globally – global warming, mental health and now social distancing with COVID-19. This generation can make sense of and find meaning in the COVID-19 restrictions in place as they see the power of working collaboratively to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Our Matrics’ awareness of social responsibility can help to reduce their anxiety around the educational disruption and allow them to see and accept the bigger picture.”
What can Matrics do to manage the stress of #matricunderlockdown?
“Understandably, for many Matrics it is probably not easy to focus your mental energy on your studies during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ashley Motene, an Industrial Psychologist and the Management and Leadership Academic Programme Developer at SACAP. “There are intriguing, upsetting and alarming things that we are hearing and reading about as the rapid spread of the virus changes how we live and study. It is perhaps even harder to stay motivated, when worries about what will happen to tertiary studies this year take root.”
Here are some practical tips for managing #matricunderlockdown:
- – Keep to your normal school day schedule – Get up at the same time as normal in the morning and follow your regular school day morning routine – wash, dress, eat breakfast and get to your desk or home study space.
- – Organise your work – Devise and follow a study from home schedule making use of all the resources provided by your school, teachers, the Department of Education and other platforms providing free educational resources during lockdown.
- – Limit your social media and social use of devices – Don’t get distracted from your studies. Spend the same number of hours on school work as you would if you were going to school. Schedule your time to be on social media or socialising on digital platforms with your friends outside of your school work hours.
- – Take care of yourself – Prioritise getting restful sleep, eating healthily and being physically active in your home or garden.
- – Ask for help – If you feel that you are not coping, don’t wait it out alone. Instead, reach out swiftly and ask for help from trusted sources such as parents, family members, teachers, friends and professional healthcare services.
What can our Matrics do if they have very limited or no access to digital education?
Bruce Probyn, who heads up the coaching team at the Principals Academy has deep insights into the realities of South Africa’s socio-economically disadvantaged schools. He says, “We’re keenly aware that the COVID-19 lockdown will disproportionately impact on matric learners from under-served communities. Many will be locked down in small and inadequate homes that are far from conducive to learning. Many will not be able to access devices to engage with a digital curriculum. Many will have families struggling day by day to put food on the table, never mind afford data for an Internet connection. These learners need practical strategies to help them do their best to keep up with their matric studies.”
- – Don’t panic or lose heart if you cannot fully access the digital learning that has been provided so far. Try to maintain a positive attitude as that will help you to be open to other learning opportunities.
- – Don’t change your study habits, or try out new methods of studying – rather stick to what you know works for you. Create a study from home schedule based on real school hours. If you find you can’t move forward in a subject, then use the time to revise the work you have done in class.
- – Remember that your text book is your friend. In the past, all matric students learnt what they needed to know, and revised their studies using their text books. Your text books are a major learning resource that you do have at home with you.
- – Get WhatsApp groups going with class friends and your teachers. Digital study groups can use less data, provide peer learning opportunities and give you access to teacher support. It might take some time to use these groups well, so don’t give up easily. Establish the rules for the group and create a regular timetable for group study. Identify the group members’ individual strengths and give the right person the leadership role when it comes to subjects, themes and topics.
- – Trust your teachers and trust the Education Department: they will not abandon you. It may take time for lockdown systems and processes to become efficient and effective. Be patient and positive, and do not give up.
- – Use this opportunity to develop your skills to become an independent learner. As a Matric student you are just one step away from being fully accountable for your learning. This is an opportunity to develop the self-discipline, time management skills and self-study habits you will soon need for tertiary education.
- – Don’t give up hope. Your attitude and resilience will make the difference between lockdown setting you back or being part of your success. Yes, it is tough. Some days, it might even seem impossible. But don’t give up. Keep going. Take one step at a time, and keep moving forward to achieving your matric goals.