The coronavirus lockdown has left some students feeling alone and anxious in their current environments.

Students across the country have found themselves stuck at home under the lock-down regulations which started on Thursday, March 26. While some say they are feeling lonely and worried, others cited the lack of structure in the absence of a university programme as a cause of their anxieties.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a number of students to find out how they are managing during the lock-down.

Nkhensani Ngwenya, a fourth-year engineering student at the University of Cape Town, remains alone in Cape Town away from her family who are in Johannesburg. She says she chose not to fly home before the lock-down as airports were quite busy at the time and she considered flying too much of a risk.

“Sometimes I feel like I am going through this alone. I underestimated what it would mean for me to be by myself,” Ngwenya said. Nwengya says she tries to chat to her family often. “Whilst they are far away right now, they are always within reach. I just need to pick up the phone.”

“My current challenge is how to maintain structure when there are no set lecture periods, no tutorials, and no classmates”, Ngwenya said.

“I know a few of my friends who are getting agitated by being monitored, and following rules set by strict parents because they are not used to being at home,” says Lebone Lehlokoe, a final year student at Rhodes University who is currently at home in Johannesburg with his family. Lehlokoe says that apart from feeling annoyed at times with his lock-down living circumstances, he is generally comfortable. 

“At school, I’d resort to spending times with my friends and going out around campus,” says Reusuc Nkongolo a fourth-year accounting student at the University of Free State. Nkongolo is also living at home in Johannesburg during the lock-down and says that she has occupies herself by listening to music and watching TV but it becomes “boring over time”.

Someone to talk to 

For those students experiencing mental health challenges during the lock-down, the access to facilities and resources is limited but help is nonetheless on hand. 

Counselling psychologist Dr Lori Eddy told Wits Vuvuzela that she has had to cancel in-person consultations.  “I’ve had to depend on Skype and Zoom to ensure my patients still have an outlet for support,” Eddy said.  

The South African Anxiety and Depression Group (SADAG) has made several recommendations to people struggling because of the lock-down. They suggest the use of Whatsapp groups to stay connected with family and friends. 

They also suggest that people “maintain a daily routine as much as possible”. This can provide structure for students who are used to functioning through a timetable. 

“Ask yourself what you can control – your attitude, your thinking,” SADAG says. This can be done by avoiding harmful triggers in your environment and focusing on being active and productive.  Additionally, they suggest that people organise the space around oneself to create a clear mental zone. Avoid clutter and staying in the same place, they say. 

For people in desperate need of help, SADAG can be reached on 0800 456 789

For students and staff of Wits University, you can access resources via the CCDU page here

FEATURED IMAGE: Students say they are struggling with a range of issues from loneliness to anxiety due to a lack of structure as universities remain in recess. Photo: Courtesy Wits University.