LOCKDOWN 2020: THE TEEN EXPERIENCE

Oren-Andrew Wentzel (age 16)

By Oren-Andrew Wentzel 4 May 2020

When it comes to online schooling, I swear that we are given more work now than when we were actually in school and I’m not really learning as well as I did at physical school, says Oren-Andrew Wentzel. (Photo: supplied)

At first, I was happy. No school? Who wouldn’t be happy? Then I started to worry about my family — what would happen if one of them got sick?

Daily Maverick asked some high school pupils if they (with the permission of their parents) would share their experiences and thoughts on lockdown and the Coronavirus.

The first time the coronavirus seemed to be actually real for me, no longer just a headline, was on Wednesday 11 March. It was around noon and I was having lunch at school, seated at a round table with my friends and some people I barely knew. We were all talking about the usual high school things until someone said, “You know that —— High School is shutting down for two weeks because of the virus.”

This stopped everyone, nobody cared about who was dating who and what classes were easier than others and we all started caring about —— High School because it was only half an hour away. At first I believed this and started to worry but then I became sceptical when the same guy started talking about how he had heard from a friend of a friend that another school much closer to ours was closing too.

I remained sceptical even when other people told me on Friday of the same week that our school was about to close as well. I was a bit worried, but only started to believe them when one of my teachers told us that they were probably going to announce the school’s closure. And then they did.

At first I was happy. No school? Who wouldn’t be happy? The only complaints I had were that I would have to carry all of my books home and have a heavy bag, but for the time being my worry was gone.

My worry came back when I was on the bus home and I realised that my parents were in New York City that day, the epicentre, for work. I got home and sat in an empty kitchen and became even more worried as it got darker and darker until, finally, my parents stepped through the door. 

For a few days I was content, I moped around the house in my pyjamas and watched movies the whole day, but then the pandemic became even more real to me. The President of my country, South Africa, announced a 21-day lockdown and called in the SANDF to support the SAPS.

Now I was worrying about my family in South Africa, worrying about how they would cope and what would happen if one of them got infected, and I grew even more worried when it was announced that in the first week of lockdown more people were killed by the authorities than by the virus!

So far my isolation has not been so bad, there are scores of people who are in a much worse position than I am. When it comes to online schooling, I swear that we are given more work now than when we were actually in school and I’m not really learning as well as I did at physical school.

When it comes to my social life, instead of hanging out with my two best friends I hang out with my mom and dad, and anybody who wants to talk to me can just use social media.

The lockdown/stay-at-home is both boring and stressful but it is hopefully not the be-all-and-end-all of this year, and with hope and health I am willing to mope around in my pyjamas watching TV until 2021 and beyond. DM

Oren-Andrew Wentzel is finishing off grade 11 via online learning in the US after schools closed due to the pandemic. He hopes that Grade 12 will have him back at school with his peers and face-to-face learning with teachers. Mainly he hopes all his loved ones survive the virus.

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