Words of encouragement to the matrics of 2020

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The Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey reported that 47% of the people it interviewed said that their families didn’t have enough money to buy food in April.

This was not a fair year for South Africa’s matrics. The final academic stretch is notoriously stressful and difficult – even at the best of times – but no one could have imagined that it would be thrown into disarray the way that it was.

Despite the disruptions, an estimated 1.1 million Grade 12 learners across the country are in the last stages of writing their year-end exams. If you’re one of them, you’ll likely go down in the history books for tackling the most important year of your schooling career at the height of a pandemic. Add to this, the drama around the Mathematics and Physical Science paper leaks and subsequent rewrites for 15 and 17 December, and you have an even more stressful year.

But in all my many years working in adult education and training, I’ve never seen anything like the strength and perseverance displayed by the learners of 2020, the matrics in particular. You’ve achieved something extraordinary, and as you sanitise your hands, put on a mask and walk into your last few papers, I’d like to offer you these words of encouragement.

You’re more resilient than you think

I’m sure that there were moments this year when the challenges felt insurmountable. The shift online, for many, wasn’t easy. Countless learners didn’t have the tools they needed, both in terms of computers, tablets and smartphones and in terms of internet connectivity. Fortunately, both the government and the private sector stepped into help, and in many instances, schools could conduct online learning better towards the end of the year than they could when Covid-19 first hit.

Learning from home also fundamentally shifted social circles. You were forced to stay away from your friends at a time in your life when your friendships mean everything. Most schools cancelled their matric dances. Other challenges were more severe. In July, the Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey reported that 47% of the people it interviewed said that their families didn’t have enough money to buy food in April. At different points throughout 2020, matric learners across the country went hungry.

And yet you prevailed. You’re here, putting pen to paper as the class of 2020. You’ve shown remarkable resilience, and it will stand you in good stead for the rest of your lives.

Your sense of self-compassion matters

As you navigate your remaining exams, and the release of your results, remember to practise self-compassion. It has been a trying year. No group of Grade 12 learners – not only in South Africa but around the world – has collectively experienced the shifts and changes, the stops and starts, and the multiple unknowns that you have.

This means that if an exam goes poorly, it’s alright. And if you don’t get the results you were hoping for, it’s alright. Your attempt is still worthy.

You have options available to you, even if you don’t pass

If, when the final results are released, you find that you’ve failed certain subjects, or even failed the whole year, don’t despair. There are other options available to you to ensure that you still receive your matric certificate. You could ask for a remark, for example, or you could apply to sit for supplementary papers through the government’s Second Chance Programme.

The Second Chance Programme includes free support. Perhaps with additional help, and some extra time to study, you could secure better marks and a matric pass.

You can always get your matric no matter how old you are

It’s also important to remember that, no matter what age you are, you can always achieve your matric. Online courses like Matric Works, which was set up by Media Works in 2016, are particularly helpful in this regard. Matric Works helps any adult over the age of 21 study and write the Department of Basic Education’s Amended Senior Certificate (ASC) exams.

An ASC is only slightly different to a National Senior Certificate (NSC) but is still a matric qualification that is well regarded and recognised by tertiary institutions and employers. Thousands of adults have completed the programme to date, and have gone on to achieve great success.

The bottom line is this: You have come so far and, no matter how your last few exams go, there is hope ahead. Congratulations on tackling an impossible year and good luck for the future.

Jackie Carroll is the MD and co-founder of Media Works, the leading provider of Adult Education and Training (AET) in South Africa, which is part of the Optimi Group. Media Works has been operating in the country for over 22 years.