Safe to say, the lockdown has not been easy for everyone. This, of course, is not a surprise given the growing sense of unease and anxiety that rose out of isolation. Everybody’s point of view matters and that is why I find it critical that the stance from teenagers (much like myself), a group which has been affected over the three months but mainly went unnoticed in the eyes of the wider public, should also matter. I feel that this short article can be separated into three core pieces, to reflect my thought process on lockdown, in hindsight: my general thoughts on lockdown, the challenges I faced during the period and its impact on my university aspirations.
Lockdown was a wake-up call for me in most aspects. Being separated from my family five-thousand miles away in an entirely different continent, made me realise the importance of family, or more so, the importance of being around those connected to you. In my case, I was lucky to have been put in the care of relatives, who although were family, never really felt like it, given that I had never spent time with them beforehand. My family’s absence brought into perspective the small things that you never realise you value when with them, leaving me longing for the lockdown to end despite the apparent benefits to public health that came with it. I guess it was lockdown that made me fully aware of the role that family plays in my somewhat reclusive lifestyle.
I won’t exacerbate the issues and difficulties I experienced in lockdown. Some went through much more challenging situations than I did, so I’ll not further brood on it. Firstly, the separation, as mentioned earlier from family, was a challenge that only seemed to grow more insurmountable, the further we fell into lockdown. There was also my difficulties with online learning, which I was unable to discern; I was unsure if it was the weird sense of unease I felt in the shift, from regularly being surrounded by my classmates in the classroom with their adjacent screens or how swift the change was having to learn on my own (and for this fact, I give thanks to both the adaptability of my school as well as my Wi-Fi connection). But suffice to say it was a challenge that became a benefit as it dawned on me how easy it was to get a bit more sleep. In this same vein, a challenge yet to fade into obscurity post-lockdown is my learning experience, despite the provisions made by both my school and others around the country to make the change as easy as possible. I left lockdown feeling as if I had not learnt approximately a quarter of my course – this is not to shame the work of my teachers (who put in a tremendous amount of effort to ensure we were still up to date with our courses) nor the extra hours of sleep that I got out of it. However, I drew a consensus within myself as we returned to school in early September, that I did not feel that I had truly understood what I had learnt. No amount of independent learning was going to change it.
Being in Year 13 and facing the prospect of applying to the University amidst the uncertain times we are in, has undoubtedly brought into light the lack of care that we are being treated with. Sure, lengths are being taken to change the necessary admissions tests and interviews to match COVID-safe regulations (which are often virtual) and this is all well and dandy, but there has been no addressing of the elephant in the room – the availability of university places. With the push by universities and the intuitiveness of self-aware students of the class of 2020 during this pandemic, there has been a large scale movement of students to defer entry in 2021, after all what is the point of paying all that money for effectively online seminars in a mendacious attempt to fulfil actual lectures. But everyone seems to have forgotten what this means for the real class of 2021, facing much stiffer competition in terms of grades against inflated teacher-predicted grades of 2020 with the prospect of actually sitting exams seeming more certain as they draw closer and the further lack of places given the excessive provision of offers (both conditional and unconditional) due to these grades. Not only have we been hindered by grades, but Universities themselves, made prevalent from one of my own choices – which I discovered to have been offering bursaries and grants to those that defer their entry until 2021. How are we, my collective colleagues of the class of 2021, expected to apply for universities when all the odds seem to be against us?
By Kweku Baffoe-Bonnie – October 2020