Emalahleni – Mpumalanga:  July 2020

Khulisa, who has been operational in Mpumalanga for the past 15 years, was approached by the Department of Education following the return of matriculants to school post-COVID lockdown, to assist with an intervention that could address the evidenced stress that they were facing.  In order to determine what intervention would be most relevant, approximately 20 learners conducted a survey compiled by resident Khulisa researcher.

The feedback report revealed that, although all the participants raised concerns about contracting the virus, attending school was more important.   The most concerning issue was that all participants were academically average / below average.

Participants stated that at the beginning of this year their key focus was to improve their marks, but home-schooling or the lack thereof has significantly put this aspiration at risk.  More specifically, the lack of data with regards to efficient home-schooling compounded with the pressure of surviving a pandemic were the two factors highlighted as to why they were now taking a backseat despite a much larger workload and limited time to learn.

Every student, with the exception of one, saw school as an opportunity to further themselves and a necessity to prosper in life.  This attitude means that the students are mostly determined and driven, qualities that one would hope prevailed amongst the general school population.

Despite the students’ anxieties surrounding the uncertainty of COVID-19 and feeling overwhelmed with the pressures of the immense workload, they were extremely determined to finish the year, no matter what.  A few students suggested the government lighten the workload by cutting unnecessary, time-consuming sections of their work whilst others suggested that their exam period be pushed back to later in the year.  Only two suggested that the year be scrapped altogether.

It is evident that this virus has brought an overwhelming sense of uncertainty which in turn has triggered anxiety.  It was the opinion of the researcher that she was confident that if the Education Department structures and organises the year appropriately to keep schools open, matrics will finish their final exams by December 2020.

Subsequent to receiving the feedback from the survey, Khulisa’s social workers are assisting the learners with additional educational support and to alleviate some of their stress factors have trained them in storytelling and journaling.