Surviving a pandemic: Class of 2020 reflects

Masiphumelele High pupil Lilitha Maqashu works on her schooling at home.

My name is Densen Magaisa, and this is my lockdown story so far.

Since March 18, schools all over South Africa have been closed due to the Covid-19 virus.

This has left me and my Grade 12 friends hoping to end our last academic year of high school with at least some of our matric rites of passage intact.

We are all worried about our grandparents, family and friends who are at risk or with possible underlying medical conditions.

With this in mind, I messaged a retired couple, Sandy and Wayne Barnes, who play the role of grandparents to me.

“Sorry you are missing your school year,” they said to me. “We were in no way prepared for such a crisis, and it was a complete surprise to us all.”

Indeed it was. It almost seems like it happened overnight – one day we were deciding what we wanted to study or do for a living, the next we were in complete lockdown.

The closing of schools has left matrics sad and anxious about the future.

“It’s so sad because we really wanted to make this year the best year, since it’s our last year in high school, but now everything is just turned upside down,” said Masiphumelele High School matric, Lusand Nompunga.

With all the anxiety and stress about the future, the best thing we can do, is to adapt and hope we can end this year. You don’t need to be at school to learn, school is not a building, school is a society with people who share ideas and learn from each other.

I believe if we are all able to communicate we can still learn, and if Sandy and Wayne can master setting up Zoom meetings to speak to their grandchildren, then we can do it too.

Surely we can all still learn to adapt to this new situation, just as older people have learnt to adapt to the technology?

I spoke to a few matric students from schools in our community – Fish Hoek, Muizenberg, Masiphumelele, Ocean View and Simon’s Town high schools. They are all using Facebook, Google Classroom, Zoom and WhatsApp groups to receive work and notes to help them prepare for the matric finals.

However, as much as these modern technologies help, some pupils find the workload overwhelming and difficult to tackle without a teacher.

I asked Hope Paula, a Simon’s Town matric pupil, if work received in this way was easy to
understand. “I try as much as I can to understand it,” she said, “but I feel like that teacher’s touch is still needed.”

If pupils are taught to become independent, I feel the technology we have could help reshape school as we know it.

A Fish Hoek High School pupil, who did not want to be named, said: “It is strange having school feel uncertain, but I do not feel worried or anxious. I’m using this time to breathe and slow down the pace. I feel our minds can be
more active and more effective when we aren’t constantly bombarded with an information overload (as I feel we are at school).”

There are many pupils who don’t have smartphones or the internet, but I have been told at Fish Hoek High School that
no one should be left behind because of financial reasons; and the school has been giving data to those of its pupils who are in need.

Masiphumelele pupils
Lilitha Maqashu and Lusanda Nompunga tell me that an organisation called Ikamva has been helping them online.

I feel we need to update the school system so it is not outdated by the technology of today and the future. Schools should be up to date with society’s improvements so that the whole of society can enjoy them.

* Densen is on Instagram as Densen.Magaisa