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Teaching matrics during Covid-19 was a case of “do or die”

Belhar High School matric teacher Gail Bedja shares her experience in teaching the Class of 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Image Supplied

Belhar High School matric teacher Gail Bedja shares her experience in teaching the Class of 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Image Supplied

Published Nov 10, 2020


“Sacrifice now, until 15 December, to reap the rewards for the rest of your life. Good times and partying with your friends can wait”. These are some of the encouraging words shared by a Belhar High School matric teacher, Gail Bedja.

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The teacher, who has tutored Grade 12 pupils Afrikaans since 2005, said matrics of 2020 suddenly had to adapt.

“Can one really compare teaching (matrics) in previous years to this year? In 2020, our matrics were forced to grow up overnight. They are on a different level. It literally became a case of “do or die” and teachers were faced with many challenges," she said.

Due to the Covid-19 national lockdown, Grade 12s, along with all the other pupils, lost more than four months of academic time. The National Senior Certificate (NSC) exam papers were already set up before the pandemic. And, according to the Department of Education, standards would not be lowered because of the lost time.

“Teachers were therefore expected to teach the same amount of work as previously in half the time.

“WhatsApp became the mode of teaching for most of us. Of course, 'Miss, I don’t have wifi/data' was a reality that added to our stress, because at the end of the day, the work had to be done,” said Bedja.

“Another challenge we had to deal with, was that many learners did not understand the work we’ve sent via WhatsApp as they had no one to explain the work to them. Many grade 12 pupils struggled to read with comprehension," she said.

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Belhar High School tweaked rules by allowing pupils to attend school with their cellphones and use them as teaching devices.

“Work was sent during school hours, making use of the school’s wifi. Matrics, prior to Covid-19, never got so much information as the Class of 2020,” said Bedja.

However, she said challenges remained even though classes had resumed. Bedja said out of a class of 18 there were days were only 5 pupils attended school.

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“Pupils abuse the system. Many of them decided to 'stay at home if you are not feeling well' on a day when they did not feel like coming to school. There were some of them, however, who had valid reasons, like our top pupil for 2020: a pupil who had to stay at home because of her co-morbidities,” she said.

Bedja encouraged the Class of 2020.

“Lastly, matric of 2020, I want to remind you that you got this – you came too far to back down now! Take care of yourself and in doing so, you’ll be looking out for your loved ones too," she said.

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