Report by Tsholofelo Shounyane
Since March 26, our beloved South Africa has been under much confusion and tension. Just trying to get through the days, moment to moment – and level to level!
Have we ever really been in a state of disaster since our democracy began? Have we had to deal with something this massive? Things have been a little more than crazy. The adult world globally has been feeling much pressure and panic regarding what to do next and where we will be after all this. It is mind-blowing that it has been over 70 days that we have been staying home.
In all this commotion, it has been easy for the little people to get lost as we deal with all the big people stuff. Do we know where they are? Do they even know what is happening? Do we know how it is really affecting them?
We as ASSITEJ SA decided to find out directly in the best ways we knew how. Between 03 May and 17 May this year, we conducted a WhatsApp/ Google Forms Survey (yay for technology!) with parents and caretakers of children, asking them to interview their children around their feelings and perception of the Covid19 Pandemic and the recent National Lockdown response.
Our initial report was from 136 responses, but we have had 150 to date. This is from children in 7 provinces – with responses coming mostly from Gauteng, Western Cape, Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal. There were no responses from Limpopo or North West.
We found our participants incredibly responsive and they gave us many interesting things to ponder and chew on. Some of the voice notes being wonderfully expressive and refreshingly funny. We had varied participants – from the age of 2 all the way up to 19 years old. More than half of these were girl children.
A lot of the children who responded used words like “angry”, “sad”, “worried” etc when expressing how they felt about the Coronavirus outbreak. Many miss “being outside without having any worries that I might die”. There is a definite awareness of the seriousness around what is happening in the world. One 12year-old responded in his voice note: “as you can see, the world is ending”. Our little people were also aware of some adults who were not respecting the lockdown regulations – this did not sit well with them. “My father and grandfather are not respecting lockdown. I do not like it”.
Mostly missing friends from school and family, they are also aware of the distance that has been created between them and those they enjoy spending time with. Possibly, this has helped them reflect, in their own child-like ways, on the meaningful relationships that they value. Some mentioned missing giving hugs to people – being aware of the impact of the lack of direct and physical human contact. The teenage learners used words like “freedom” or “free”, which may imply they are feeling caged. They also used the word “frustration” to express what they feel regarding being at home most of the time. And in as much as they enjoy spending family time at home with a less strict schedule, they do miss their regular routine and their “normal life”.
A feisty 4 year old little girl said “I miss my friends and going to the beach. Also, why can’t I go play at Spur? This virus is boring”. Another 5 year old keeps asking if Rona (read: Corona) is still around.
While many are being kept busy with school etc, many are learning agriculture and cooking skills and helping in general around the home – they have become more a part of day-to-day home-runnings, and learning new skills and hobbies. A few have become innovative and creative, testing their independence: “I planted a mango tree. I don’t know if it will grow. Lol”, said one teenage boy in KZN. A 10 year old boy in Free State mentioned growing his favourite vegetables so that his grandparents do not make excuses for not cooking them. Though many feel bored and frustrated, others are delving into new hobbies they enjoy. Mostly they are enjoying family time and being able to relax and not wake up too early.
Some form of access to online learning has helped as well – even if it was just sent via WhatsApp from teachers to parents. This is encouraging, as it shows that even those learners who lack resources, do have some sort of access. Hopefully, this will grow as we find our way through this new situation that forces innovative teaching and learning.
What did all the children have in common? They want “covid19 to end” and to “go away”. The teenagers are willing to take their chances and go back to a “normal life” – “Even if it’s just a few of us in the class, we can try to go back. Being at home is boring”.
The children are also surprisingly compassionate and empathetic, being considerate of those around them. Many of the them expressed concern and sent prayers and thoughts to those affected by the virus – wishing them a speedy recovery and wishing that their own loved ones will be spared from infection. This was a touching find – that in the midst of a pandemic, the children of our country still have the capability to reach out to others and send out a sense of unity and togetherness in a trying time.
And our parents? How are they? OVERWHELMED! seems to be a bit of an understatement. Most feel that their children are coping, but they themselves may not have all the support they feel they need to help their children at this time. Either due to time, capabilities, data resources or technical resources. Especially those parents and caretakers who have more than one child in the home – and still having to work from home. Keeping a schedule is something some parents laughed at. What day is it even today? Lol.
What can be done, but to keep engaging and keep trying and asking questions to find solutions? None of us knows where we will end up in all of this and as ASSITEJ SA, we will continue to find out what our audience is going through and how we can help.
While there is more than enough reason for panic and distress, there is also the opportunity to grow and try new things. And what better way to start than asking our future? Asking the very people we want to build and who will be building others a few decades from now?
(For our full report, please click this link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1u9CQQEQTPV8H2Uj3r7gRgmI11msdPjQp)