In the wake of news that some unions were challenging the Department of Basic Education about the resumption of Grade 7 and 12 classes, TotT sought out an affected pupil to hear her feelings on the matter.
Simamkele Sambu, a matric pupil at Kuyasa Combined School, said she had to learn self-discipline and the importance of teachers in a hard way in order to keep up with her school studies during level 5 of the lockdown, which kept pupils out of school for more than two months.
Sambu said the excitement of experiencing freedom out of school quickly ended when reality kicked in.
“Being at home during quarantine for me was quite fun at the beginning because I was not used to having so much freedom and control over my time to study. I could also set my own deadlines for the work without being given specific time,” she said.
“However, days went by and those days turned into months without physically being with a teacher and that made me realise that studying at home is a huge responsibility and is rather difficult.”
Sambu said being glued to a cellphone and television is the main challenge for her generation, and added how the anxiety of not having a teacher to monitor her progress affected her.
“I was stressing and wondering whether I was doing enough work, but all in all I was coping well. These challenges made me appreciate the education system and the teachers. They also taught me how to prioritise on a much more complicated level,” she said.
Speaking about her mother’s role she said, “My mother would check on me so that she could help wherever she could and remind me to listen to the classes on [SABC] radio.”
Sambu further appreciated her teachers who kept in touch with pupils, sending them schoolwork in line with what was taught on radio and television. But Sambu said there was a challenge keeping up with the broadcaster’s time.
“Even though sometimes I would miss them or arrive in the middle of a class as the situation was new and had to adjust to the new normal, I started setting the alarm that would remind me to catch the classes on time,” she said.
Despite the challenge of time management, Sambu acknowledged that the SABC lessons were very helpful with reminding her of the activities taught by her teachers on a WhatsApp group.
It was the aforementioned challenges that gave Sambu a revelation about the importance of the presence of teachers. “Studying at school is much better because teachers tell us how to cope with our situation when we are struggling to understand a certain lesson and communication is efficient,” she said.
No back at school, Sambu said Kuyasa Combined School abides with all the precautionary measures, but that has not removed her fear.
“I have mixed emotions about being back at school. I am happy but I also fear for my life at the same time. Schools across South Africa have been closing with teachers and learners getting infected. It’s been a constant prayer that we do not get a case. We are still enjoying the little time [we have] until we write our exam trials and soon, finals,” she said.
Sambu also mentioned now measures to combat the pandemic had changed the schooling environment into a different world than it was before.
“My first week of school was like entering into a new world. We have a different timetable and more periods. Every morning we check our temperatures and fill in a form. We have to sanitise every now and then. We wear masks all day unless we are eating. Teachers wear face shields and at times they have two consecutive periods and have to talk with masks on. Sometimes it is very hot and they get tired and dehydrated. It is hard seeing them in such stain,” she said.