Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Auckland final year students fed up with online learning but nervous about going back to school

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on returning students to grade 3 schools. Video / Mark Mitchell

High school students returning to school in Auckland today say they want to go back to class. They are fed up with Zoom calls and emails to teachers for help.

They say it has been difficult to stay motivated as the lockdown dragged on, despite their teachers’ best efforts.

But now they are replacing the frustration of the lockdown with the uncertainty of coming together at school as Covid-19 cases climb in Auckland.

The <a class=high school students are returning today to the Mt Albert Grammar school. Photo / Michael Craig” class=”article-media__image responsively-lazy” data-test-ui=”article-media__image”/>
The high school students are returning today to the Mt Albert Grammar school. Photo / Michael Craig

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced last week that grade 11, 12 and 13 students in Auckland and Waikato could return to school starting today.

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But comments from teachers and students have led some schools – including Takapuna Grammar, Manurewa High, Sancta Maria College, Western Springs College and St Kentigern – to remain closed for at least a week.

Other schools are advancing, allowing some or all of the seniors to return to prepare for exams and assessments.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said a straw poll found about 70% of students were planning to return.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said there was no requirement for final year students to return this year.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault said there was no requirement for final year students to return this year. Photo / Dean Purcell

The remaining 30 percent may already have their qualifications, work, or be disengaged for “a whole host of reasons – not necessarily because [they’re] stir”.

Students didn’t have to come back if they didn’t need it or if they were worried about the virus, said Couillault, president of the Association of High School Principals.

“If you got what you need out of the qualification and you don’t need any assistance with any external exams or additional things to get your qualification, keep working from home.”

But if they weren’t sure about the exams, they needed more evidence to Unexpected event level, or could benefit from working with friends in person, school was the place to go.

“It is not compulsory to attend.”

The headmistress of Pakuranga College, Noyiuki Obasuyi, planned to come to the school today – mainly to see friends – but not to stay all week.

Pakuranga College headmistress Noyiuki Obasuyi, 18, says learning about confinement was "hectic and stressful".  Photo / Supplied
Pakuranga College principal Noyiuki Obasuyi, 18, said learning about confinement was “hectic and stressful”. Photo / Supplied

“To be honest, it has nothing to do with education. A lot of people have adapted to working from home, but at the same time, it’s good to be in the classroom as well.”

The lockdown had been “quite hectic and stressful” for the 18-year-old, who was unable to complete some internal assessments and had also tried to accommodate her little brother with autism.

Students in Pakuranga were taking derivative grade exams at home, but some had poor internet connections and a friend had failed an exam because her computer was no longer working.

These students may feel like they need to go back to school even if they have health problems.

“We just hope that everything is under control,” she said. “I really sympathize with all the teachers because the students still have a bit of a ‘choice’ to come back.”

Some students are unlikely to return – Davida Suasua, principal of Tangaroa College last week tell RNZ nearly 40 percent of students worked full time and many were not likely to return or attend university as planned.

Alfriston College student Denzel Siasau had no plans to return but changed his mind after speaking to his mother.

He started working full time at a local supermarket when the lockdown began; his shifts from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, left little time for homework.

Denzel Siasau, 18, had no plans to return to Alfriston College to complete the year, but agreed to return after a conversation with his mother.  Photo / Supplied
Denzel Siasau, 18, had no plans to return to Alfriston College to complete the year, but agreed to return after a conversation with his mother. Photo / Supplied

“It was a personal choice for me – I was already on top of my credits,” said the 18-year-old. “I just wanted to help the house financially in any way I could.”

Siasau is still working part-time and didn’t think he would need to return – he already had NCEA 3 level and was planning to work in construction.

But his mother convinced him to end the year, despite her safety concerns. Siasau is fully vaccinated.

Papakura High Prefect Elijah Olano, 18, worked full time at the same supermarket during the lockdown. Having nothing to spend the money on, he was able to both save money and help his family, he said.

Papakura High's Chief Prefect Elijah Olano, 18, worked full time during level 4 but is eager to return to school.  Photo / Supplied
Papakura High’s Chief Prefect Elijah Olano, 18, worked full time during level 4 but is eager to return to school. Photo / Supplied

He had to do his homework at night. “I wouldn’t say I’m the best at attending classes online, but behind the scenes I get the job done.”

He found his motivation to be undermined as the year went by, but eventually he came out of it, realizing that he had to be a good role model for other students and his siblings.

Olano was eager to get back to class and get help with the assessments, but knew that many classmates didn’t want to come back because of the outbreak.

“It feels good to be home. As long as I’m vaccinated, I wear a mask, I have the appropriate PPE.”

Mila Veljkovic, a student at Botany Downs Secondary College, said that despite teachers’ best efforts, “the longer the lockdown goes on, the less people do their jobs because it seems a little hopeless.”

Mila Veljkovic, 16, a student at Botany Downs Secondary College, will be back in school this week despite the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Auckland.  Photo / Supplied
Mila Veljkovic, 16, a student at Botany Downs Secondary College, will be back in school this week despite the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Auckland. Photo / Supplied

“We have things called panel rooms and no one has a camera on, no one is really communicating. So it’s a lot harder to have a sense of fun and learning.”

But many students were also confused the government would let them go back to school with triple-digit cases, the 16-year-old said.

“It feels like we’re kind of the guinea pigs to get out of lockdown because it feels like it’s not safe for someone else, but all of a sudden our exams come first. rather than our health. “

Isha Takyar, director of ACG Sunderland, also found that online learning was not as effective as it was in person.

Isha Takyar, 17, director of ACG Sunderland, will only be back to school for tutorials and exams.  Photo / Supplied
Isha Takyar, 17, director of ACG Sunderland, will only be back to school for tutorials and exams. Photo / Supplied

“With face-to-face learning, we just understand the materials better. There are always classes that aren’t as chatty about Zoom, with internet issues and everything. [and] there’s a little problem with that self-awareness, like you don’t want to show your house or look like you have too big a house. “

Takyar would only attend small tutorials and Cambridge exams in the coming weeks. The 17-year-old felt safe as she was fully vaccinated, but knew her peers feared returning.

“It’s all the uncertainty of what’s going to happen. With the case numbers, once they get released, you realize how bad the situation is… we don’t know when we’re going to socialize again. “


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