Emotions ran high at Masibambisane High School in Delft as Grade 12 learners received their Matric results. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Emotions ran high at Masibambisane High School in Delft as Grade 12 learners received their Matric results. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Class of 2020: How matric pupils and parents can reframe the pandemic experience

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published Feb 22, 2021

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The Class of 2020 has had a tumultuous year. Along with a global pandemic and national lockdown, matric pupils had to contend with a staggered school year and remote learning.

When Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announces the matric National Senior Certificate pass rate today, there are bound to be tears of frustration and despair for some.

For pupils and parents, there are ways to cope with the psychological fallout.

Read the signs

Both parents and teens will benefit from a heightened awareness of what is brewing emotionally as they wait for the results, and then process those results.

Parents should be on the lookout for behavioural clues, such as changes in sleeping or eating patterns, moodiness, short temper, frustration, lethargy, and expressions of boredom, says Esmarie Cilliers, registered counsellor and educator at SACAP (the South African College of Applied Psychology).

All of these can be indications of anxiety and distress.

“Parents should react to this with patience and understanding,” says Cilliers. “Using reflective listening can help your child to become aware of their emotions. Having someone that understands always makes the burden we carry lighter.”

Choose to cope

During acute episodes of anxiety, deep breathing techniques work to calm you down, and positive affirmations can be used in the moment to shift your thought patterns as a way of coping, added Cilliers.

Manage expectations

Even in the best of years, matric is a pressure-cooker experience and we tend to place a large emphasis on the importance of getting nothing less than outstanding results.

“It’s important to know that if the outcome of your matric results does not meet your expectations, this should not be viewed as a defeat,” said Cilliers.

“Rather, it’s a new challenge or obstacle and you have choices and steps you can take to move forward in life. Remember not to compare your life with those of others, and that each of us has our own journey to follow.”

Reframe the pandemic matric experience

Dr Diana De Sousa, head of teaching and learning at SACAP’s Johannesburg Campus tackles some of the common perceptions of parents, matrics, and first-year students and outlines ways to reframe the pandemic’s impact to find real hope for their futures:

“My results aren't what I hoped for due to the pandemic disruptions - I would have done better if Covid-19 hadn't have happened.”

“Consider this instead: My matric results do not define who I am and what I can achieve. There are infinite pathways to achieving my career ambitions. Reflect on how the Covid-19 impacts on you, while acknowledging that it is now in the past. What can you learn so that you can adapt and grow from your matric experience? Take a moment to consider that you made it this far, and this is a major achievement.”

“I struggled to adapt to learning remotely last year - I am going to keep doing badly because Covid is still disrupting studies at the tertiary institutions I have applied to. I am going to start university at a big disadvantage because online learning hasn't worked well for me.”

“Adapting to learning remotely is not a linear process. Over time learning remotely will become less daunting. By adopting and maintaining a growth mindset, being curious and open to different ways of learning and finding enjoyment in a supportive online learning community, you can lay a foundation for successful remote learning experiences.”

“I missed out on learning content last year and worry that I have learning gaps. I don't know if I can ever catch-up, and I fear that this is going to affect my whole future - my ability to succeed in tertiary studies is going to be compromised; I won't get the kind of job I really want once I graduate; I am always going to be behind in life. I can never catch-up on what I missed during my Covid-Matric year.”

“Accepting that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on your matric learning experience is not easy. However, the ability to be flexible, open-minded, and adaptable can emerge in response to disappointment. By seeing things differently, you can take ownership of your learning and your future and in turn empower yourself to catch-up Grade 12 content relevant to your chosen field of study at university level or seek study skills and career guidance from Student Support departments found in tertiary institutions.”

“I had plans for a gap year to give me space to decide what to do next - but now I can't travel as I hoped to do. I am not ready to choose a study path, but I am under pressure because there's nothing else worthwhile for me to do this year.”

“A gap year during Covid-19 involving free-wheeling travel abroad is no longer an option, and you will need to adjust your expectations accordingly. There are still worthwhile ways to experience a gap year such as volunteering, part-time work, short course and bridging studies.”

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