Saturday, December 4

Seniors Wary of Back to School in Auckland, Waikato

After 10 long weeks of learning at home, Zoom lessons, and parting with friends, seniors from Auckland and Waikato will don their school uniforms and return to campus this morning.

Secondary students

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

This comes after Auckland recorded its highest number of daily cases of 126 on Friday of last week.

But despite more than two months in the level 3 or 4 lockdown, not everyone expects to return.

Year 12 student at Kings College, TJ Rusden Rowley, is fully vaccinated and can’t wait to get back to the classroom.

“I checked the news and they said they were sending seniors back and I was so excited. I literally screamed and my dad said ‘what?’ and I said ‘let’s go back to school.’ I was running around the house so happy I can go back. “

The NCEA exams are scheduled to advance in just under a month, and those students whose learning has been interrupted by lockdowns or cannot attend an exam are eligible for an ‘Unexpected Event Grade’.

TJ has been completing his online practice tests in preparation, but said studying at home has been a distraction and a sense of loneliness.

“For me personally, my motivation levels are going to go up a lot more with the exams coming up just because I’m not sitting at home with my two parents teaching, and all of us trying to teach at the same time. And it’s like a new life and it’s not just about being stuck at home and feeling a little lonely and it’s good to see some new faces and socialize again. “

But the story is different for Selina Silila Helg, a Year 12 student at Manurewa High School.

“I was very excited to go back to school, excited to see my friends, to get support from my teachers for tests in person, to get out of the house. Because I’m sick of learning online and staying home, but then I guess. that reality struck and I was reminded of the risk this represents for my people, the Maori and Pasifika people. “

More than 75 percent of the cases in this current outbreak are Maori and Pasifika people.

And although Selina, who is fully vaccinated, wants to go to school and study for the next exams, she worries about going back and worries about her whānau and her community.

“The reality is that my people are and will continue to be the most affected by Covid-19. I feel really concerned about my classmates at school, my community in South Auckland and especially my family. The school would benefit me in my exams, It would still put them at risk by being around other people. “

Jireh Fogavai is in her final year of school at Sancta Maria College and is also concerned about the government’s decision to send the seniors back today.

She is also fully vaccinated, but people are concerned that they are not following the social distancing and mask wear requirements.

“I know a lot of people who are very excited to go back to school, see their friends, but I feel like I’m in an area with multiple people. It’s like a meeting because I know there are a lot of people who can.” They really stay in its limits, so they will embrace and everything, so it will spread very quickly. “

When it comes to the NCEA exams, Jireh is confident in her ability and feels prepared.

“I don’t have many exams, but I know that there are other people who have a lot of exams, so I think I’m fine. I think I can do it. I think I’ll be more motivated because I’ll stay at home, you don’t have the teachers by your side, so you don’t have to work. It will give me a push. “

While exam season is often a stressful time for seniors, the pandemic and ongoing lockdowns have seen them face additional pressure.

Dr. Sarah Watson, a senior child and adolescent clinical psychologist at Totally Psyched, a private mental health clinic, said there appear to be two mindsets among returning teens.

“On the one hand, there are teenagers who love being at home, have stable home environments, and like the fact that they don’t have to socialize with everyone at school. There is no pressure to go to school. so it’s actually pretty laid back and they quite like it.

“And then there are the others: those who feel they need their friends, and the loss of their friends and the social aspect of school is really difficult; or the academic support they receive and the competence and confidence they get in academia. .. It really depends. “

Since the announcement, she and her team have seen a significant increase in anxiety among those returning to school.

He said some will feel like they haven’t studied enough at home and will feel behind, and others will struggle with social skills.

“There will be some who will just be much more aware of health and possible health consequences. It’s especially scary if you have a vulnerable family member at home, which some will.”

There will be additional complications for the Ministry of Education today, with some Auckland secondary schools like Takapuna Grammar School advising students to stay home.

Students have been told that the school has an excellent and well-considered plan for the beginning of the quarter that is working and that the proposal outlined by the government is neither practical nor necessary for them.

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