As COVID-19 continues to ravage the world and rob us of our freedom, peace of mind, income and, in severe cases, our lives, it is time for us all to sit down and examine the true impact of this pandemic. People have had to sacrifice a tremendous amount to play their role in curbing the spread of the virus and, although we are all in this together, we are not necessarily in the ‘same boat’. There is little denying the fact that COVID has been particularly cruel to the students of 2020.
While some are mourning the loss of a loved one, others are mourning the loss of a job, a wedding, a much-anticipated holiday, a family reunion, and much more. Those of us who have not fallen victim to the virus, or who do not know of someone close to us who has, are lucky. But that definitely doesn’t mean that we haven’t suffered loss or sustained damage to our mental health.
At the other end of the scale, learners at all stages of education have been scarred in so many ways by the closure of care centres, schools and places of higher learning. As the parent, sibling or friend of a 2020 Matric student, you will have witnessed firsthand the disappointment and emotional upheaval that the matrics are having to deal with through no fault of their own.
The matrics of 2020
A group of South Africans that has had a significant portion of its most important life experiences snatched away is the matrics of 2020. One day in March they walked out of school and suddenly didn’t know if they would ever walk back in again.
While the return to school started happening gradually a few weeks ago, President Ramaphosa’s announcement to close them again for a period of four weeks as the virus reaches its peak has school-going kids and teens in a panic. The plan is for matrics to return after a short one-week break, but whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen.
Experts speak about a ‘wait and see’ approach regarding the decisions around the re-opening of schools, especially considering the fear that these learning institutions could become dangerous sites of transmission as the number of infections continue to rise.
Will these youngsters get to bid their schools a proper ‘goodbye’? Will they be able to relish in the experience of writing those final exams and enjoying the many ‘lasts’ that make the matric year so exciting? Will they get to attend their matric farewell? Will they even get to hug their friends and teachers goodbye?
Who knows what the next few months hold for South Africa. What we do know is that COVID has been cruel to us as students of 2020, almost as much as it has to the matrics of 2020.
The matrics of 2020 are being forced to show strength, endurance, and resilience beyond their years. Many of them are doing an incredible job of it, too. So much so that parents and siblings might not even notice that their young teen is in mourning. The stress of trying to keep up with schoolwork regardless of being outside of the classroom is a big enough distraction. But, rest assured, the sadness and disappointment are there too.
So, what can parents and family do to ease the heartache?
Do for your teen because you can. Savour the small pleasures in life, just because. Be there to ‘listen’ even if your teen doesn’t talk. Remind them that they are not alone. Even if their matric year is not what they had hoped it would be, don’t let them forget that they are still in control of their future. They might be missing out on a few important ‘lasts’. But there are plenty of wondrous ‘firsts’ still to come.