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Matric pupils rise above the challenges of writing exams during a pandemic

27 November 2020 - 06:00 By kgaugelo masweneng
Mackenzie Teise poses in her school uniform.
OPTIMISTIC Mackenzie Teise poses in her school uniform.
Image: Supplied

Mackenzie Teise had big plans for her matric year. She would attend her matric dance, would celebrate academic achievements and bask in her valedictory ceremony. But Covid-19 scuppered those plans.

Never did she imagine that she would be home schooled and write her final examinations with such uncertainty.

Teise, a matriculant at C &  Oranje Meisieskool in Bloemfontein, like many in her position, has battled a profound sense of uncertainty throughout the academic year.

“So much has changed with Covid-19. Things like screening and sanitising is all of a sudden part of our daily routine at school and things we used to do every day are gone. We had so many questions, and no-one had answers to those questions, which was rather frustrating.

“It was definitely an adjustment, and it was definitely difficult for me — a hugger — to hear that hugs are not encouragednow. But the school tried to create an environment where the students would feel safe and our parents could be sure the school was trying everything to make and keep us safe,” she said.

Not only has Covid-19 made the year hard, the final portion of the matric academic year has been characterised by scandal — with two exam papers being leaked, and a highly political violent protest at Brackenfell High School in Cape Town.

Pre-Covid, there were various reports of matrics dying under violent and tragic circumstances, including the high-profile drowning of Enock Mpianzi in January.

Despite all of this, Teise believes all is not doomed as she still has an optimistic vision for her future.

“I would like to study criminology and physiology. I have always been fascinated by the human brain and the thought process of someone who's about to commit a crime. I'm always interested in knowing what made them do what they did and understanding it,” said Teise.

With all the challenges the basic education department is facing, matriculants are singing the praises of their educators for the sacrifices they have made in preparation for the mixed examination term.

So far, I've written three subjects, and each one had a second paper, so it's six exams in total. They have been pretty intense, but easier than prelims.

“Even though we couldn't physically attend school, my teachers made sure we got our work and we were prepared enough to write finals. They definitely went out of their way to make sure we were OK; we got the work and we knew what to do,” she added.

Teise said her family has been instrumental in her ability to focus and study through the year.

Mpho Mahlangu, from Hloniphe Secondary School, Mpumalanga, has written more than 10 exams already.

“It was nothing more or less than I expected. I don’t really feel the pandemic affected my readiness. Looking at what has happened when we reopened, we were done with most chapters in our subjects.

“This year was super crazy. There was a lot of uncertainty, it was scary in a way. I got a lot of support from the teachers at school. They have put extra effort to help us prepare. It does make things easier,” he said.

Mahlangu wants to study either law or education. But because of financial constraints, he might have to take an academic gap year.

“I’m choosing these careers because of job security; I don’t want to be a statistic. At least in these careers, there's a small rate of unemployment,” he said.

Mahlangu said he downloaded apps and used previous papers to prepare for his examinations.