The student, the school and life after Covid-19

The report card trauma

 The week before schools re-opened was always very stressful for me during my high school days. It was the week that my father revisited the report card and analysed everyone’s performance, including the teachers’ reports. Now, I was never really a straight A’s kind of student and for that reason, I always dreaded the last week of the school holidays. Father would get into a bad mood that week and everything would eventually blow up two or three days before schools opened. On that day, he would remind us how much he’s sacrificing for us to go to school. He would tell us of the many children who did not have the same opportunity that we had. My biggest stress, always, was not knowing how the ‘lecture’ would end, so I would sit there wondering when he would draw out his belt just to put a leather stamp on issues, literally.

Going back to boarding school was always a great relief. Meeting my friends after a month of holidays brought joy to my soul. If ever there was a time that I was happy, it’s when I was at school, never mind the report card.

Back to school after Covid-19 (Virtual classrooms, yay or nay?)

Which brings us to the case of today’s student and the Covid-19 pandemic. This has been the longest schools have been closed in recent history. I can only imagine how other students are feeling. I know my children have since stopped talking about going back to school. They have missed school and their friends for too long it has since stopped being an issue anymore. Terrible.

Are we ever going back to the classroom as we used to know it? Will I ever talk face to face with my friends? These are some of the questions they ask. What has affected them more than anything is the disruption this has brought to their normal way of life. The uncertainty of whether or not things will get back to normal is also part of the problem.

Thank goodness for Google classroom, Microsoft Teams, Zoom meetings, you name it! Oh, how they saved the situation but they are only as good as stop gap measures. Even these 21st Century students are realizing that nothing beats physical instruction from a human being in a physical classroom.

What about the teachers? My wife is a teacher and I see her everyday planning lessons and marking her students’ work ‘online.’ She tells me that it’s easier to give out instruction to Grade 2s if they are sitting right in front of you and not via Whatsapp video calls. Online school is good but physical instruction is so much better, she says.

Nothing stays the same

When students and teachers finally come back to school, hopefully very soon, they will bring with them an incredibly high level of need. Imagine what some of them have been through, from family conflict to missing their friends from school. Some have had to deal with abuse issues, lack of food, and anxiety. Some have lost loved ones during this period, while others have had the best fun ever, let’s not forget that. Being with family all day and watching movies all night can be a satisfying experience for some. No doubt there will be all sorts of emotions running wild when schools re-open. There will be a need to harness some of these emotions. To meet these needs, in my opinion, schools should be prepared to offer a comprehensive set of services that address the needs of children, teachers and their families.

Camp programs – (Bridging the Gap)

We all have that all weather friend. Yes?

Schools can always partner with camp facilitators like @standing_tall_365 and allocate resources to provide an integrated focus on academics, health and social services that were greatly infringed upon by the lock down.

Campsites like have already started putting together programs and systems that will help students refocus their minds to the ‘new world.’ Imagine what it would be like to sit around a bon fire under the starry night sky in Nyanga. Imagine the night sounds of crickets and other insects saying, ‘Where have you been, we’ve missed you,’ as you lay down in your tent after a long day of hiking Nyangani mountain. Imagine the sound of the 4:30am whistle, signalling the beginning of the day’s activities. We need to reclaim our souls and reconnect with nature. We have missed the outdoors for way too long.

Schools will have to invest more in these programs, systems and practices to provide students with a wide variety of support that will help them succeed in school. Together we have to redefine the mental, social and physical stamina of the students, our future leaders.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, focus should be on the “whole child” approach which can be seen as a comprehensive way to ensure that students and their families are able to step up and pick up from where they left off.