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Local students reflect on life and Covid

By Ana Sharma

Over a year ago the community as a whole dealt with a seismic shift to daily life and for students the Covid-19 pandemic changed their academic and social lives.

Now as life slowly begins to return to a new normality, local students have looked back on life lessons learnt during the height of the pandemic.

“I found the first lockdown quite overwhelming because it came across as confusing, and we didn’t really know how to handle it, whilst for the second lockdown, we were more prepared,” Bayside student Holly, aged 13, said.

For Bayside student Chris, aged 16, it was difficult learning from home, not leaving the house and dealing with distractions.

“There are also a lot of distractions, like the TV, and when you’re at school, if you use your phone, your teachers are there to stop you, but if you are at home, you just stay on your phone,” he said.

“There was just no motivation to complete the work.”

In some ways, it became harder for students to maintain the fine balance between their studies and social lives.

“Online work was way too much,” said Bayside student Abbey, aged 14.

“They gave us more than they normally would in person because they knew you were at home. You could also spend four hours on a presentation or a project, and they wouldn’t mark it, which made me not want to do it.”

“A lot of schools in other countries did online video conferences, and I think that, for some of the students, it would have helped to have those face-to-face video chats because some people receive information better by listening to a teacher rather than having to read an article themselves.”

Chris added: “A teacher has their own way of explaining things throughout the academic year, so it’s a big shock to have to listen to a random YouTube video explaining what is maybe quite a difficult topic.”

The pandemic has also been detrimental to the students’ approach to their studies and their ability to cope with their many responsibilities.

“During the first lockdown, it got to the point where I was failing quite a lot of my classes because it was quite an effort to ask for help or receive explanations. For example, in Math, for one of the topics, I found it quite hard to understand a typed explanation from the teacher,” said Bayside student Chloe, aged 14.

Westside student Sienna, aged 14 didn’t like learning online.

“We got loads of work, and when we are at school, we can easily raise our hand and ask for help. That wasn’t possible during lockdown,’ said .

Aside from the extended workload, students also faced other obstacles, such as taking care of younger siblings or more vulnerable family members

WI would take care of my brother in the morning, after my mother had spent the night taking care of him, so that she could sleep, then my dad would come home from his shift and try to help. It was very hard to spend quality time with the family, take care of younger siblings and their work, and also try to cope with my own work,” said Westside student Rihanna, aged 13.

The pandemic also brought people together, particularly families, because of the amount of time everyone spent at home. This was felt very strongly by the teens at the Youth Club.

“I would definitely say that the bond between me and my mum has grown a lot. We’ve grown really close; we tell each other everything,” said Chloe.

Rihanna added: “I think lockdown has generally brought families closer together. Normally, before Covid, I would get home, do my homework and go for a walk, but with lockdown, we were stuck at home, and that made us bond."

The students at the Youth Club, found these new conditions brought by the pandemic challenging.

“Some of the young people I work with have had a lot of anxiety in the aftermath of both lockdowns,” said Youth Club worker Caroline.

“Going back to school was a big fear because of the increase of work they received, and the lack of support and interaction they had, so while it is great seeing their friends again, academically, they also feel under enormous pressure and quite unprepared.”

Chris said many students felt anxious about returning to school as they felt they had not done anough work in lockdown.

“Some people who maybe already had anxiety maybe got worse because the thought of going back to school and facing the music for not completing the work was scary,” Chris said.

“It was a mix of emotions.”

Rihanna added: “Being 15 and not knowing how to cope with anxiety is really hard.”

For those who have been affected, the Youth Club has been there to support.

“The Youth Club has really helped me not feel overwhelmed,” said Bayside student Daniel, aged 18.

Chris said during lockdown, each Youth Club had a Zoom link which they could join a couple of times a week, and have conversations with friends and youth workers.

“We had some activities going on. During the first lockdown, the youth workers were even delivering packages to us, for example, paints, paper and art equipment, so that we could entertain ourselves whilst being stuck at home,” he added.

For Abby, the meetings broke the monotonus cycle after being stuck at home for a month.

Some of the activities they undertook during lockdown included a scavenger hunt, riddles, and arts and crafts.

Lockdown has not been an entirely negative experience. For some, it gave them space to grow and get to know themselves.

“Lockdown helped people find out who they actually are or how they like to dress or how they like to approach people. I feel like I’m coming back to school as a completely different person because I know that I went through a stage when I tried to fit in properly, literally changing myself and not knowing who I was,” said Holly.

“I know who I am now, and I’ve learnt how to deal with things and how to express myself, in contrast to a year before where I was just trying to fit in.”

When we think about what our lives have become with Covid, perhaps, if we could go back in time, we would do certain things differently.

This was felt very keenly by the youth, who feel that their lives have been completely changed by the pandemic.

“I would learn how to be more motivated about things and how to manage my time. Doing school work whilst looking after my younger sister who wanted my attention, whilst my parents worked all the time was really difficult. Looking back, I would use my time more wisely,” said Holly.

For Daniel, Chloe and Sienna the Covid-19 lockdown provided some life lessons.

“I wish I would have kept up a routine, to keep myself busy throughout the lockdown, so that it wouldn’t have been so hard,” said Daniel.

Chloe said: “I have learnt that things work out in the end and not to stress out about things that haven’t come yet.”

“One thing I have learnt is to be grateful and to treasure the time you have with the people you love because you don’t know how long you have left with them,” said Sienna.

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