Psychologists say the return to school for thousands of children next month will prove to be a challenging time for both learners and parents.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced last week that both public and private schools, will reopen only for grade sevens and 12s on the first of June.

A move that has some parents concerned, saying this will place children at an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus.

However, after eight weeks of being confined to learning online – experts say the transition back to a routine needs to begin soon.

Psychologist Rakhi Beekrum says while these fears from parents are expected, it is important to begin preparing children now for the return to school under challenging circumstances.

“It’s important for the parent to meet the child where they are, to listen to how they feeling, to validate the feeling, acknowledge what their concerns are. We need to reassure our children why we equipping them with protective measures for themselves. Those that are excited want the routine and want to be with friends; those who are anxious might have been bullied at school and have enjoyed this time away. Children will feed off your anxiety. If you are highly anxious, children are likely to feel the same way. We have to acknowledge that this is new normal that we are entering,” says Beekrum.

In the video below, some matriculants are caught between a rock and a hard place:

Beekrum is urging parents to educate their children on how to protect themselves under what can be considered a new normal in the classroom.

“Ensure that you have educated your children, you have had the conversation about social distancing, about wearing masks, washing hands; ensure that they understand their risks and rules. It’s also crucial to work with the school, work with the teachers. This is going to be a very difficult time for parents, the safety of your children is going to be the most important thing. I want you to understand that this is going to take some adjusting, be patient with yourself and we will deal with stresses on a daily basis.”

Eager for return to normalcy

Despite being a little nervous about returning to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – it seems many teenagers are eager to see their lives return to some normalcy.

Fourteen-year-old Retshidisitswe Mazibuko from Johannesburg says studying at home has been a challenge when one is surrounded by an extended family.

“For me, it’s hectic because I can’t study. I have siblings that are noisy. I feel like when I go back to school, I will have more concentration than I have when I am at home. I am worried, but it depends how I’m treating myself. I am too careful. I have been staying at home and following the rules,” Mazibuko says.

Teachers are expected to begin returning to school on Monday the 25th May. This is to ensure that everything is in place for when grades seven and 12 resume classes.

Educators and learners are likely to also receive orientation on what will become their new normal. This includes social distancing in the classroom, sanitising and the wearing of masks. Those parents who choose to keep their children at home have been urged to arrange home schooling.

In the video below, EUSA wants to interdict the reopening of schools: