Two Johannesburg teachers open up about their back to school anxieties

The opening of schools has been pushed back to February 15 by the department of basic education. This was in relation to the rising number of coronavirus infections. Even with the delay in school opening, teachers are still concerned about returning to the school environment. Two teachers shared their feelings around returning back to school. 

Zyn-neerah, high school teacher, Johannesburg 

I’m not feeling very prepared or safe for that matter. I have been teaching for two years. My main concern is that the children, from what I’ve witnessed, are not at all cautious with regards to the rules and regulations. Many children remove their masks and don’t maintain social distancing. This is dangerous to other students, as well as teachers and staff members. 

In 2020, there was a lot of confusion, disorder and constant disruptions in the school system. Somehow we managed to complete the year. At first, many students and staff members were more protective and abided by the regulations. They slowly became complacent and irresponsible and many rules were “bent” or not taken seriously.

Schools have taken into account the strain for the teachers, but not necessarily placed emphasis on dealing with the stress and anxieties that we’re dealing with. I’m making sure to be prepared in terms of precautionary measures that I plan to implement in my own classroom space. I’m mentally preparing myself to deal with the many precautionary processes that are put in place for everyone’s safety. I have to mentally wrap my head around the fact that we are still walking into one of the most risky environments – simply for the sake of our jobs and staying afloat in this troubled time.

There are many factors to consider and the most crucial part being the battle between securing the education system and progressing, and flattening the curve of the rate of infections. It’s a tough argument to make, especially knowing that your job and daily bread could be on the line in the hope to save lives. 

Wardah*, primary school teacher, Johannesburg 

I’m extremely nervous. I teach grade R and initially the learners are very emotional. Our only way of consoling them is by physical touch (carrying them or hugs). With COVID we won’t be able to do that. This worries me because how else do you console a crying five-year-old. I’m extremely scared for my own health. Many young adults have been affected worse in this second wave. Many people are not cautious and don’t respect other people’s precautionary measures.

I have been teaching for 6 years. My main concern is that other people are not taking precautionary measures which could be a danger to my life. I’m concerned that we have to teach the curriculum in a short time. We have a day in day out approach so our number of days per term are halved. This makes it very difficult to complete the necessary tasks especially when it takes grade R kids about two weeks to settle down 

2020 was the most difficult teaching year. There was a lot of uncertainty regarding schools opening, the curriculum and maintaining social distancing between learners. I felt like I hadn’t connected with any of my learners. Writing their year end reports was extremely difficult because I knew their work but not their personalities. I didn’t achieve my goals as a teacher, which was no fault of mine. It was an extremely daunting year. 

Initially we ensured everyone followed the correct protocols but everyone became very lax too quickly. Those who were particular were looked at as being too pedantic. I haven’t even thought that far to be honest about preparing myself. I’ve lost 4 family members in the past 3 weeks so I’ve just been taking each day as it comes. 

The interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity. 

*not her real name. 

Featured image via Wikicommons