What It’s Like To Finish School During A Pandemic

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Haniyah Abdou Said: “I remember betting that nah it will be fine, like school will resume the way it usually will but that didn’t happen.”

Students around Australia have had a strange year of learning.

Schools have closed, reopened and closed again, teaching has been a hybrid of classroom and online, and some people are raising questions about the impact COVID-19 has had on both the academic and mental health well-being of students.

To get a sense of what it’s like to finish school during the pandemic, I spoke to a Melbourne student right in the thick of the harshest lockdown in Australia.

HA: “My name is Haniyah Abdou Said, I go to Mount Alexander College.”

CK: “Can you tell me what the start of your year looked like?”

HA: “I was really, really excited. Everybody was telling me that Year 12 is really hard but it’s like one of the best years of your life.”

And then this happened.

HA: “It was a week before my birthday, so I had birthday plans and everything with my friends, but then we went into lockdown and everything.”

Haniyah lives in Flemington, roughly 15 minutes away from Melbourne’s CBD. She shares an apartment with her parents and four younger siblings.

Metropolitan Melbourne has been the hardest hit in Victoria’s second wave, forcing the entire city and surrounding suburbs into a six-week lockdown.

HA: “The second time has been a lot easier because we’re kind of used to it and we’ve moved everything so we would be ready for this, if it did happen again.”

CK: “What do you miss the most about going to school each day?”

HA: “Just being around my friends and being really social … we went back to school for a week or so, but even with the restrictions within school it kind of made school a bit sad and depressing … I just like being in a group discussion and having those kind of vibes you would get in a classroom, that you can’t really get online.”

The government has made some pretty big changes to the way students are being assessed, in light of the disruption COVID-19 has caused to their learning.

Haniya’s plan had been to continue studying once she finished school, which she is still hopeful she’ll get to do. But like many high-school students, she was relying on her part-time job to make some savings to prepare for the next chapter of her life.

HA: “I work at a cinema and they closed straight away and they’ve been closed for a really long time.”

For now, though, there at least some perks to her learning from home.

HA: “Now I sleep in, so today I woke up at 9.”

The Takeaway

Nobody yet quite knows how long Melbourne’s second lockdown will last; if the rest of Australia will see another wave of COVID infections; or whether students like Haniyah will get to return for their last days at high school.

But what year 12 students will have over any other previous cohort moving out into the world, is a whole lot of resilience and perspective.