Covid-19 has made it difficult for students to remain consistent in school. 

 Coronavirus has wrecked the school year, with at least 500 000 South African children missing school. 

A study, conducted between April 6, 202l to May 11, 2021, indicates that the lockdown has had a detrimental impact on school attendance and the psyche of learners.   

According to the National Income Dynamic Study-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), 10% of parents report that at least one learner in their household between the ages of seven to 17 years-old have not returned to school in 2021. “This is strongly related to parent worry, household location and poverty status,” the survey noted. 

“Some of the dropouts in our school are motivated by parents’ anxiety to remove their child from the environment [because of fear of them contracting the virus],” says Mr Sono, principal at Bokgoni technical high school in Atteridgeville. “It’s not always the student’s decision, but the parents.” 

Bokgoni is a public technical school with 1171 learners, with 700 of those learners in grades 10 to 12.  

“During lockdown, we tried to conduct learning and communication on WhatsApp, but we had challenges with data,” he says. The school could not afford the resources for online learning. “Parents complained about data costs, therefore, learning had to stop completely.”   

According to educational psychologist, Seago Maapola, at St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls, the abrupt change in learning environment also contributes to student dropouts. 

“Learning requires ongoing mental effort and having such a long pause as a result of the lockdown had dire effects on some of the children,” she says. 

She points out that there was an increase in anxiety and depression cases among students. It was even more challenging for students with conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to learn optimally.  

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to two matric students, about the challenges of trying to finish the academic year during covid-19.   

Ofentse Ndlovu (18), from Willoridge High School, says the change in workload has been challenging. “It [the workload] hasn’t allowed me and other matrics to prepare for a full exam, which we are writing now,” she says. 

Kagiso Morfa (18) told Wits Vuvuzela that the pace of working remotely was her biggest difficulty.  

“Covid really made me feel anxious and scared at first, because at the same time, I want to achieve great marks this year for my application to university,” says Kagiso Mafora, from Laudium Secondary School. “There was also a lot of pressure from teachers as work was given and not explained like they would, if we had been in a classroom.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: Students from Bokgoni Technical Secondary School working on their project. Photo: Dumisani Mnisi.