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“When some speak in the media about the year being a ‘write-off’, it is easy to be even more anxious. What they are trying to communicate is how difficult it is going to be to assess progress normally and that a two-year perspective should be taken – but even this is not a comfort for Grade 12s who don’t have two years available to them to recover from this,” says Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education.
“On top of this, the amount of support available to matrics before classes can resume is very varied. Even those who are able to get high-quality online or paper-based or televised support are needing to work without the security of the presence of their teachers and peers,” he says.
Ntshinga notes that even then, there are many who don’t have access to the aforementioned resources.
“It is clear that the Department of Basic Education is aware of this and there is little doubt that this group will be the first that will be allowed to return and time will be created to ensure that they can catch up – even if that means moving examinations into December.
“Any individual student is not alone here and can at least draw comfort from the fact that the decision-makers are as worried as you are. It follows that what makes the most sense right now, is to take what you do have and what you must face, and make the most of it so that by the time you get back to whatever the new plan will be – and there will be a plan – you have managed to get ahead of your peers and in front of your own anxiety.”
Ntshinga notes that while matric learners will indeed lose out on some of the experiences normally reserved for this year of school, they are also now, forever, the cohort that had to succeed faced with these challenges, which will earn them a measure of respect.
“Everywhere you look there is advice on how you should be coping and what you should be doing, and that you should have a healthy daily routine which includes learning, revision, exercise, and sleep. When you are struggling to do this, it adds to your anxiety.”
Ntshinga says that instead of trying to do it all, learners should keep their eyes focused on small victories and goals – getting through today, or a particular chapter or a past paper are all achievements. Stacked on each other, they will carry learners through.
“Identify the one or two things you can do every day that will mean success for you, and strive to then get these done.
“Aim for small successes every day, which will help to make sticking to routine the next day progressively easier as you go along. And don’t beat yourself up if you are struggling to get to grips with this new way – it is challenging for everyone, and there is a lot of empathy and understanding for that, also on the part of your teachers. However, for your own sake, you must try to show yourself every day that you are doing the best you can under the circumstances.”
Finding quiet time
Ntshinga says getting things done might also call for some creativity on the part of matrics.
“If you are sharing a small space with your family, and it is hard to get quiet focus time, you might try reaching an agreement with them regarding which times of day they need to give you some peace and quiet for studying,” he says.
“Or you could, for instance, change the times you study – perhaps late at night when everyone else is sleeping, or an hour or two before everyone else wakes up.”
Navigating remote learning
It’s also worth taking some time to get to grips with the actual logistics of learning remotely, Ntshinga says.
“If your school is one of those who have been preparing for digital and online delivery and now offer dedicated learning platforms, it might take some time getting used to the ins and outs of the apps they are using. Practise the ins and outs of these platforms, so the actual work that you are doing isn’t being slowed down by trying to navigate the app itself,” he says.
“And also keep in mind your data usage if you are studying this way. You can, for instance, download something with your night-time data and come back to it the next morning, and also save your data for your work, rather than wasting time and data watching movies online.”
Learners must also resolve to make the most of online classes by showing up, engaging, and preparing as they would have for contact classes, he says.
He adds that those learners who do not have access to resources from their schools should find out about the ones that are generally available, such as classes broadcast via the SABC (see links below) or through the platforms of some telecoms providers. Learners can also share ideas and resources with friends using WhatsApp.
“If your school was not able to assist you, find someone or something that can – the skill of this investigation is already a life skill that last year’s matrics did not have to learn the way you do. We are in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis and everything is in a state of change. There is much you can’t control, but you can set yourself up to be prepared to live out your dreams in the new world order. Use this time to expand your vision of what your future might look like,” he says.
“The message is to keep on keeping on, and to spend your days as productively as possible, whatever that may mean for you personally. Focus your energy on what you can do, and keep building your future with small positive achievements every day.”