CORONAVIRUS & EDUCATION

Grade 12 learners contemplate rest of school year and what else lies ahead

By Ayanda Mthethwa 7 May 2020

‘This pandemic will pass. I just hope that they don’t end up saying we will write [exams] next year because it means I can’t begin my university applications,’ said 17-year-old Khanyisa Masango from Ekurhuleni. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Shelley Christians)

Without a definite school resumption date, matric students are facing the uncertainty of not writing their end-of-year examinations. Some told Daily Maverick about their remote learning struggles.

Every year without fail, Grade 12s (matric learners) sit for their National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams. In 2020, the coronavirus is threatening this possibility.

Seventeen-year-old Davina Bailey from the Northern Cape said relying on teachers to send schoolwork via WhatsApp groups has been a major hurdle. 

Davina Bailey from Northern Cape is not happy about having to rely on WhatsApp groups to receive her schoolwork. (Photo supplied)

“Especially when it’s new work, then we have to go through the topics ourselves and figure out what’s going on there ourselves again… what about the other children who don’t have WhatsApp and even internet? Then it means they don’t get the work,” she said. 

Nontobeko Mbethe, 18, from Ekurhuleni, Gauteng said there were days she had missed a number of class discussions on her English WhatsApp group. 

“If it’s not data that I don’t have, my network gives me problems,” she says as her call breaks up. 

Mbethe said another struggle has been dealing with some educators who don’t respond to her questions instantly. 

Nontobeko Mbethe from Ekurhuleni is a matric student. Her biggest worry is the possibility of doing her work under more pressure. (Photo supplied)

“At least in a physical class, the teacher is in front of me, I can ask her a question. But now sometimes I don’t get a response until the next day… and some of us learn easier with the guidance of a teacher.” 

Bailey said evenings are a great study time for her because the “the house is quiet”. 

Katie van Rooi from Johannesburg splits her time between her Google classroom and helping her 14-year-old sister with her schoolwork. 

“I’m kind of drowning in assessments. I’m tired emotionally and physically,

“Most teachers are preparing us for our SBA tasks. Like with maths, for example, our teacher will finish a section and then we’ll write a formative assessment a day or two after we’ve finished the section,” she said. 

Katie Van Rooi from Johannesburg has been enjoying remote learning and worries about heath safety is they reopen schools. (Photo supplied)

She said she had been following her normal school timetable and woke up at her normal school times to “attend” school. 

“A majority of the teachers will have a register that we mark on Google classroom to make sure that everyone is there. 

“On Google classroom, we are given a summary of the work we have to do for the week. But we have to teach it to ourselves. But I like it because then I can manage my stress well,” said Van Rooi. 

Although Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced 1 June as the proposed date to reopen schools for Grades 7 and 12, a new calendar has not yet been gazetted. 

Motshekga told Parliament’s basic education committee on Tuesday that the National Command Council (NCC) and the Cabinet must first approve the plans set out for the reopening of schools. 

The plan indicates that Grade 12 will still be examined on 100% of the curriculum and write their June (mid-year) exams in November, combined with their end-of-year exams. 

“I’m worried that there won’t be enough time to catch up with the entire workload when we reopen. I don’t see how this can be managed,” said Khanyisa Masango, a 17-year-old from Ekurhuleni. 

“I have not been receiving any assistance from anyone, but I have been trying to study,” she said.

Although it does not seem like these young minds will breathe a sigh of relief anytime soon, they all are still looking forward to eventually writing their exams and furthering their studies. 

“This pandemic will pass. I just hope that they don’t end up saying we will write next year because it means I can’t begin my university applications,” Masango said. 

Mbethe said she would not mind resuming school next year, because then she can go through the schoolwork under less pressure. 

“Online schooling is difficult for everyone, not only for the learners, but also for the teachers as well. They are a few generations behind us. And the learners who are struggling with data and connectivity are not benefiting from this. But also, going back to school could pose a health risk,” Van Rooi said. DM

All learners were spoken to with consent from their parents.

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