Back To Basics is the Key as we Navigate a Post-Covid Vision
“To what extent are our current spaces, people, time and technology in schooling helping or hindering our [post-Covid-19] vision? Is an entirely different approach to the organisation of people, spaces, time and technology in education needed? In a world where shocks like pandemics and extreme weather events owing to climate change, social unrest and political polarisation are expected to be more frequent, we cannot afford to be caught off guard again. This is not a cry of despair – rather, it is a call to action.” – Andreas Schnieder, Schleicher, Director, Directorate of Education and Skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Holy Family College answers this question in its article for ISASA magazine on their response to the global call to action in navigating Covid-19.
Compiled by English Teacher, Michelle van der Merwe
Africa is bleeding.
We are in the eye of a relentless storm which is ravaging our continent. On a daily basis, our country faces multiple challenges like never before. Climate change, gender-based violence, unemployment and civil unrest are just some of the challenges we face as we navigate the murky waters of this era. Our educational spaces, practises and technology need to be reimagined and geared to this ever-changing world.
Change is long overdue
“The expiration date of chalkboards, desks in single files and books has come. How many more signs are needed for us to realise that the methods of education are outdated and need to be replaced with more modern and ‘relatable’ methods. So I say, bring in the smart boards, the tablets, the holographic teachers. Welcome light-weight school bag, paperless society, and free Wi-Fi!” These words, written by Grade 10 learner, Luthando Khumalo, highlight the extent to which our current spaces and technology do not cater for educational advancement. As we move forward into a (hopefully) post-Covid existence, what is in store for us?
A post-Covid vision – not all black and white
The words ‘post-Covid’ imply that at some point, the pandemic will end. However, with the continued mutation of the virus, when can we expect to enter the post-Covid era? With regards to this post-Covid vision, Grade 8 learner, Ntsako Mbasa raises the following point: “I do not think that we will have a post-Covid vision any time soon. If we do, what will it look like? What do you plan to do in this post-Covid vision and how do you plan to make that ‘dream’ a reality?”
Since Covid-19 seems as if it is here to stay, at this point, a post-Covid vision, with all its nuances, does appear to be a ‘dream.’ The Grade 8 learner continues with the following train of thought: “There are so many social issues going on in our country such as the recent civil unrest, gender-based violence and poverty as well as the pandemic which has made things ten times worse. We still have to combat the virus and deal with these other issues as well. Those in charge do not seem to be fulfilling their duties. Guess what these politicians do? Nothing. They just sit in their three-storey mansions, eating caviar in their silk pyjamas on their leather sofas and drive their luxury vehicles. They spend our hard-earned money on themselves and focus on elections instead of investing more in education and developing renewable sources that will not damage our environment.” Where does education and the post-Covid issue fit in, when the government has so many social issues to address?
There is no doubt that an entirely different approach in education is needed. But the question is, are we ready for change?
“Is the South African Department of Education ready for this kind of change? I think not. Yes, turning towards more technology in schools would be benefitting, at most, but right now, it’s a luxury if parents still have to pay school fees, and if there is still such a thing as ‘private schools’, we are not ready for an upgrade. The mere fact that parents would rather pay three to five times more in school fees than the average public school fees, to ensure their children get a ‘proper education’ is an indicator of the huge educational inequality that we face. Fight for equality before technology.” So continues Grade 10 learner, Luthando Khumalo, whose words highlight the importance of digging deep so that we can get to the root of the problem.
The root of the problem cannot be ignored
Due to educational inequality thousands of learners have dropped out of school. Before the social unrest, approximately 500 000 school dropouts were recorded. The number jumped to 750 000 thereafter. With these shocking numbers uppermost in our minds and the spectre of ongoing social unrest, how do we create a post-Covid vision. Where do we begin? What about addressing the ever-increasing school drop-out rate? We need to drill down to the root of the problem within our educational system, because there is no quick fix; and no amount of fancy, state-of-the-art technological equipment will curb the learner dropout rate in our schools.
Civil unrest has also affected human relations within our society.
“The unrest has triggered an uncomfortable situation between certain race groups in our country. The rainbow nation is disappearing, because the angle of sunlight has changed. Instead of us changing with the angle and following late Nelson Mandela’s dream, we have remained stagnant and who knows how long it will be until the sun shines on that exact angle? The unrest has turned this country into a restless society. Where is Ubuntu? Where is the love?” These words written by a Grade 10 learner reveal the extent of the discord amongst our citizens and the importance of sustaining harmony amongst our citizens.
Keep it simple…
We need action! Fast.
The call to action is not only the responsibility of government or the Department of Education. The call to action also includes more than complex educational reforms and policies, which could be a time-consuming affair. Do we have time and energy to create, implement and monitor sweeping policies?
We need urgent and meaningful action! Fast.
We need to get back to basics first, such as simple practises within our individual spaces. Simple practises that foster healing, such as stress debriefing sessions, journaling, prayer, outreach programmes, nature, arts and music. We are a haptic species meaning that we are wired for touch. However, the pandemic has changed this. Our society is fragmented. It is falling apart. We need to equip our learners and offer them activities that will assist with the healing process. When healing takes place, this will enable them to connect firstly, with the inner self, as well as re-connect with one another.
Holy Family College allowed for a stress debriefing session amongst the Primary School learners where the Grade 1 learners were allowed to share their experience of the civil unrest via discussions and artwork. The Grade 1 learners were first allowed to chat amongst themselves. The conversation included topics such as shooting, stealing, staying at home; without passing a judgement of these unrest-related activities and whether they were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, since the purpose of the exercise was to allow the learners to ‘unburden’ themselves. The general mood was one of fear amongst these learners, who did not regard the events as being at all funny.
The Grade 1 teacher explains: “I had read up on the wonders of also allowing the children to draw a picture of an event as this allows you to ‘see’ into their events without further prompting. I asked my children to draw what they wanted to but it must depict the event. Some children drew pictures of people smiling with large shopping bags while others drew pictures of children crying, blood and guns.”
Included are some pictures which are as follows:
Learners need ways to express themselves. The value of journaling must be acknowledged and implemented within the school curriculum, officially or unofficially. Death is a daily companion lurking around every corner and this is fuelled by the ongoing pandemic.
When faced with darkness, writing is free therapy. Journaling evokes mindfulness. It promotes emotional catharsis and assists with the management and regulation of our emotions. It boosts self-identity. You might be wondering how writing in a journal can have a significant impact on your mental health. After all, it’s just putting some words on a page—how much can that really do for you? Tons of online information provides proof that the value of this daily practice should never be underestimated.
Prayer is one of the most powerful weapons that God has given to us. It’s not the words that you say or even the manner in which you pray. It’s your heart and your spirit that need to be in the right place. The following words of a Grade 9 learner, Lusanda Khumalo, echo the need to turn to God anew. “The God of Creations, our Father, has not forsaken us. Be mindful of the fact that God works in mysterious ways and that we should not question His ways, for it is futile.” More than ever before, we need to hang onto our faith.
Only you can make the difference
Thoughts of Leo Buscaglia
You alone can bring magic and humour
and joy to the people you encounter.
Anything you dream, by the very nature
that you can dream it, makes it possible.
The purpose of life is to help others,
and if you can’t help them,
would you at least not hurt them?
You can make things happen that you
never thought you could!
The greatest risk in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing does nothing,
has nothing and is nothing.
To be is to do – and to do is to do now
because tomorrow might not be there.
You have everything you need to be so much …
don’t settle for less!
There is no end to human potential,
and there’s so much more to learn.
The time for action is now,
and only you
can make the difference.
Outreach Programmes: Everyday Heroes
Learners need to recognise the everyday heroes around them.
Friday the 30th of July, Holy Family College learners and staff honoured those who risk their lives daily to take care of those around them. This was an outreach for the St Martin’s Children’s Home, which provides a safe home for abused, abandoned and neglected children.
Our ‘Everyday Hero’ day was wonderful. Parents, learners and staff went all out and made an amazing effort to dress up. The school aimed to teach our children to appreciate those that serve us daily and in turn to serve those who need help. St Martin’s really appreciated the contribution made by the school.
Learners sang ‘Jesus you’re my Superhero’, after all, he is our Hero above all others. “Blessed are those who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit ”
We need to reconnect with nature.
A cluster of beautiful flowers stand upright in the corner of my neighbour’s front garden. She told me that they are candle flowers, actually candelabra flowers, standing to attention in a profusion of yellow spikes, providing a dramatic backdrop of floral delight.
Delicate and fragile, a bunch of sulphur butterflies hover above the spikes; countless wings in flickering flight, flapping delicately, motion colliding with light, to create a hazy atmosphere. My imagination is captured by these delicate creatures. They look so vibrant and carefree as they shimmy from side to side in a yellow glow. It’s a sign from the universe, a gentle nudge to focus elsewhere, remove oneself from the hustle and bustle of life, and look to nature as a source of comfort, in a world where the answers have become skewed. So we need encourage our learners to connect with nature. It provides a sense of joined destiny and belonging between humans and the rest of the universe.
Art and Music
Music and art education are an important part of the school curriculum, yet it seems as if more and more schools are excluding the arts to make way for other subjects. Music is the universal language with an undeniable power to connect people from all walks of life, irrespective of cultural and language differences.
The beautiful piece of artwork is designed by Grade11 learner, Lwanele Khumalo. This is what he says: “With the eye being the focal point of the artwork, it symbolises our Lord God seeing what man is doing to earth. The hands moving away from each other symbolises the lack of communication within society, as humans continue with pain and bloodshed. My intention is to show the problem and the solution. By turning from our ways, working together and looking towards God, the earth can be made whole again. If not better.”
Africa is bleeding. Pain and suffering is rife. Human connections are disintegrating. We are a haptic species meaning that we are wired for touch. However, the pandemic has “pulled us apart”, in every sense of the word, and as a result, mental illness is on the rise. As we move forward to navigate the myriad of challenges that face us, let us always be mindful of the individual spaces we need to focus on. We need to deal with the individual cry for help. Once individuals have access to processes that foster healing and restoration, this will go a long way to strengthen the mental well-being of our people. A mentally strong nation, together with the latest technological apparatus, will go a long way to ensure that we are moving forward on a stronger course; and our educational system may be better equipped and able to withstand the issue of ongoing climate change, as well as events categorized as a black swan.
A black swan – is an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterised by their extreme rarity, severe impact, and the widespread insistence that they were obvious in hindsight. like pandemics, gender-based violence and social unrest…….
Some final thoughts:
We have to tap into the heart and soul of each person. The message is clear and there are nuances of the power of now, In surrender, you no longer need ego defences and false masks. As we power together in the power of now, we remove the mask, to help us discover our true Being, release our pain and find deep inner peace.
When we are intensely present in the Now, we respond from deep awareness and flow with ease and joy in life. Every minute you spend worrying about the future or regretting the past is a minute lost, because really all you have to live in is the present, the now, and gives you actionable approaches to start living every minute as it occurs – a call to action.