The 2020 academic year has no doubt been the most difficult to date for pupils across South Africa. Pupils have already missed 46 days of school because of the COVID-19 lockdown. However,  it is the matric class that has been really affected.

Psychologists are advising that pupils’ mental health must be prioritised.

Matric is the culmination of 12 years of schooling. It marks the end of an era and the beginning of the next chapter in a young person’s life.

But with all the joy it brings, it is undoubtedly the most stressful year for pupils.

There are pressure, anxiety and endless learning. The matriculants of past decades may have thought it was tough, but nothing can compare to what the class of 2020 is going through.

They have lost crucial tuition time and face an uncertain road ahead. While some have been fortunate with resources to make up for a lost time, for others it has been a major setback.

This week, teachers return to schools to prepare for classes. For schools in urban areas this may be easier than those in far-flung areas.

Pupils’ views on their return differ. Some are excited to reunite with their teachers and peers.

“I am looking forward to going back to school and meeting with friends again after a long time. It feels being back at school will help and make catching up easier,” says one of the pupils.

Others are dreading going back to school, raising concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Psychologist Dr Akashni Maharaj says the 2020 matric class has been put under immense pressure like no other class before them.

She says as much as their safety and catch-up programmes are important, their mental well-being is crucial. She has cautioned against unnecessary additional pressure.

Despite the challenges the class of 2020 faces, many are grateful for the support so far. As government and parents continue to prepare and debate their future, they are asking teachers to commit themselves to help them.

Below is government’s back to school plan: