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YOUTH SPEAK | University is a lonely haul at times, but I'm proud to be making progress on my own terms

It’s different living on my own, writes Nomathamsanqa Tamara Khwaza

16 June 2021 - 08:00 By Nomathamsanqa Tamara Khwaza
Nomathamsanqa Tamara Khwaza.
Nomathamsanqa Tamara Khwaza.
Image: Supplied

This essay is part of a June 16 series published on TimesLIVE on Youth Day. The Sunday Times last year published extracts from the book Learning under Lockdown, compiled by professor Jonathan Jansen and Emily O’Ryan to celebrate Youth Day. Fast-forward to 2021: some stories reveal further heartbreak while others have happier endings. The series of essays published today on TimesLIVE looks at where these children are now, a year later.

2021: I learnt about time management and adapted it to this year

I am studying at the University of the Western Cape. My family was so pleased and so proud when I passed matric; I was so pleased I passed matric during lockdown.

It was so hard last year, my family had to buy data and I had to look for places which had Wi-Fi because we didn’t have it at home.

I’m studying a BCom Accounting. I always wanted to be an accountant, it was my first choice when I applied for university.

This year my home is in the Western Cape. But we are doing online lessons. I would rather be in class than working from home, I’ve never met my classmates and when I get stuck with something I can’t ask anyone in my class for help.

The lecturers all use different platforms to lecture Zoom, Google, and we meet others on WhatsApp.

I must be self-dependent and I’m sure I’m not the only one going through big changes.
Nomathamsanqa Tamara Khwaza

I do live with other students, but none are doing accountancy. 

It’s different now that I’m living on my own. I have to do things on my own. Last year at home in the Eastern Cape, my grandma did all the housework and I focused on my schoolwork. Here I multitask. And the environment is so big here — it’s so different compared to the Eastern Cape. I had to travel here on my own and get very homesick.

Cape Town is such a big city — I come from a small town. Now if I need to go to the shops I have to call a cab. I went to the taxi rank for the first time and found it overwhelming, as there were so many people there.

But I must be self-dependent and I’m sure I’m not the only one going through big changes.

Luckily I find the university work easy. I’m getting the hang of it and I am used to working online from last year.

I also learnt about time management working at home last year and I’ve adapted what I learnt to this year.

Though we can’t go to class, we can go to the library. I usually go there if I need to write something or during load-shedding. I use the Wi-Fi and I can charge my laptop there.

I did apply for a bursary but I’ve had no feedback yet. Hopefully I will get it.

I just want to say to all high school students, especially grade 11s and 12s, that time is very important and very precious. I encourage them to use it wisely. Let them use this Covid-19 crisis as a teacher of time management.

2020: In grade 12 at Barkly East High in the Eastern Cape

Learning under lockdown was fun and easy at first because no-one was telling me what to do and there was no-one busy checking up on me, whether I did my homework or not. I studied in my own time, everything was going like I wanted it to.

As more days went by without me being at school, I started feeling the pressure of how much work, “new work” to be precise, I had to learn all by myself. I now struggled with time management.

My home is a place that I would call an unfriendly study environment, as I can only study at night. That is, when everyone is asleep, because that is when the entire house is nice and quiet. I started with easy things like summarising and making notes. I also used this time to test and see how long I could stay up at night. This technique helped me understand and challenge myself more.

I had to encourage myself to try to get out of my comfort zone and finish what I started.
Nomathamsanqa Tamara Khwaza

Since I was struggling with time management, I decided to draw up a study plan for myself, which of course I did not follow for at least 14 days. I had to encourage myself to try to get out of my comfort zone and finish what I started. This is when I started enjoying doing my school work. I now had a plan which I followed.

There are some radio shows and television channels that would broadcast grade 12 content. This was great because I needed all the help I could get, but I was facing a problem: the shows were broadcast at the same time when my family wanted to watch their evening shows. I sometimes could not tune in because they just did not let me. It was always six people against one.

After the president announced that the lockdown was being extended, I was shocked. How could this happen? It was heartbreaking and stressful at the same time. Another full month at home, trying to fight procrastination. Online learning and other methods of learning were being introduced.

My school started WhatsApp groups to help bridge the gap of online learning, since it was expensive and some pupils could not access it. With that said, I had to try out more things by myself, like watching YouTube videos and also going on educational websites. You know what that means — more data, and more data means more money. I had to stop because now my family was starting to complain that they were spending more money on data than on groceries. Fortunately I was able to reach out to a friend so that we could study together.

My time-management fun was short-lived, as I had to start all over again. With my new study plan made, I had to spend more hours studying. I now had to adjust to studying both in the afternoon and at night. In the afternoons I did the work that I found easy and at night I practised the difficult subjects. This is what is helping me right now. I miss school, even though it is kind of fun not waking up early in the morning. I miss the school vibes, interactions with other pupils.

My advice to other pupils is to draw up study plans, to improve their time-management skills, and that with every subject they must make notes on what they do not understand and ask those questions when schools reopen.

With that said, my personal lockdown experience was both difficult and easy at the same time.