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News in brief - Date: 14 August 2020
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Schools across the country and indeed the world are grappling with the impact of COVID-19, not only in the academic year but also the profound impact this has had on matriculants.
“This Friday should have been the matric dance for the Class of 2020 … a night of fairy lights, sparkling dresses, slick suits, and smart cars … a rite of passage they have looked forward to and planned for years. Their year should have been one that celebrated a list of events for them: the last basketball game, the last inter-house event, the last fundraiser for charity. Each of these should have been part of the letting-go process for our Grade 12s in a year that should have showcased their talents. But none of this has happened now,” said the executive head of Ridgeway College, Ms Dionne Redfern.
Redfern acknowledged that, apart from the repercussions for the matrics, this has been a year that has tested her and her Prep School head, Mr Jannie le Roux, pushing them and staff like never before and yet, stress and disappointments aside, yielded some positives too. “We have been forced into a growth mindset and pushed out of our comfort zones. We overcame the epic challenge of moving a school online during lockdown and staff who had never used Google Classroom are now adept at it. Our Grade 8s were children a few months ago and now they have morphed into young adults because they have had no choice but to assume accountability for their learning,” said Redfern.
Redfern reflected that, as a school, their usual marketing strategies had to be re-evaluated and they held their first Zoom marketing session last week, attended by nearly 40 people. They have plans to host more such functions. “As teachers, we have all taught smarter, drilling down to core skills. As a staff, we have had to stand by one another as never before because none of us were trained in how to teach during a pandemic. And in all of this, we have not lost sight of the need to safeguard the well-being of our learners.”
At Ridgeway, Redfern said, well-being is described as all their pupils being recognized and valued, and with staff knowing a child’s marks, work ethic, classroom behaviour, and level of engagement without looking at notes. Ridgeway are also employing the assistance of a local counsellor and an excellent educational psychologist to work alongside them to recognize barriers to learning and to find ways around those. “Most importantly,” said Redfern, “we also see the profound impact this pandemic has had on the psyche of our pupils. They need to feel safe and secure and loved like never before because their known, predictable world has been rocked.”
Redfern added that, in a year where so much was mourned, the school was grateful that as an IEB school they had been allowed to deviate and continue to teach and that their academic year would still end in November. While the matric dance will not be happening this Friday, Redfern nonetheless celebrates the Class of 2020 with this message: “Believe in yourself. Be someone who knows your own mind … who knows your value and worth … who has an inner strength to rise above adversity … someone who has choices and self-determination and who is filled with courage and love.”
Ayesha Chhaya, the current headgirl at Ridgeway College, is one of the college’s 37 matriculants who will sadly not be celebrating their matric farewell this Friday because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo supplied.