Classes under coronavirus are ‘weird’

This week the first group of learners, grades 7 and 12, returned to their classrooms after schools were closed on March  18. The Mail & Guardian asked two grade 12 learners to write about their experiences of returning to school during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

One is from the renowned Mbilwi Secondary School in Sibasa in Venda, Limpopo. The school produced the likes of University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor Professor Tshilidzi Marwala and is known for producing remarkable matric results. 

The other learner is from Lindley, a small town in Free State, and attends Phukalla Secondary School in Ntha township. 

Fulufhedzani Mutengwe

Mbilwi Secondary School in Limpopo 

Returning to school after almost two months of being at home has been a bit weird, because we are not used to this life. We are not used to a life where we have to put on our face masks on a daily basis at school, not being able to touch or hug our class friends. 

Our principal, deputy principal and a doctor addressed us on how we will have to carry ourselves now at school. We have been provided with masks and face shields. 

When we enter the main gate at school we have to queue to get screened and sanitise our hands before going inside. 

Things have changed a lot. We are now forced to bring our own water bottles and lunch boxes because the spaza shops are not opened. The good thing is that there are only 20 of us in a class so we are able to practise social distancing. 

During break we were not allowed to mingle with one another and we were not allowed to go outside. Everyone remains in class and we eat our food on our desks.

Teachers will no longer come to our desk and assist us one on one, there will be no more group discussions. This is so we can practise social distancing.

But when we are outside the schoolyard going home, things change. People start hugging each other, removing face masks, they do not keep social distance and they get on public transport that is full. 

All of this is against the school rules. It looks like we will only practice the rules inside the schoolyard only. 

Mpho Ntsoahae

Phukalla Secondary School in Ntha, Free State 

Have you ever been caught between a rock and a hard place? That is how I felt when the minister of basic education [Angie Motshekga] announced the reopening of schools on June 8.

I was in two minds about going back to school, especially now because there are many cases of the virus. But I also had to think about my future. I thought to myself, “What will happen if the virus is here in two years time? Does that mean I will never go back to school?” 

I decided to go. 

It was so strange to arrive at school after two months of being at home. The school principal told us that we had to be at the school at 7.15am. When we got there we had to wait to get our temperatures checked and get our hands sanitised before we were allowed inside the yard. We are not used to that. 

Things are so different from what we know. We cannot sit together as friends. We eat in class during our lunch break and we are only allowed to go outside for a few minutes. 

You know, back then you would go to someone’s desk and ask them something that you did not understand, but now we cannot do that anymore. 

We have to remain at our desks to keep a social distance. 

I am worried. I’m not free at school. I am wondering if someone has the coronavirus in my class or if I also have it. We have not been tested for it. It is scary. 

The minister also announced that we will be writing a fully fledged exam. I am very worried about how I will perform because I aim to obtain 80% and above in all my subjects so that I will be able to get a bursary.

When we were at home I tried catching up on my school work. I made myself a study timetable for all my subjects. I was studying two subjects daily and spent about two hours per subject. 

It was a struggle doing all of that without a teacher. I feel that as grade 12 learners we are being put under a lot of pressure. 

I will not lie and say I am not nervous about my results, but I just have to remain optimistic. And no matter the challenges we are facing I will never be discouraged. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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