Government Is Not Doing Enough For Students


Campus shutdowns due to Covid-19 has had many effects on the students of South Africa. The move to online learning hasn't been a smooth one for a lot of the student body as many say only privileged students can benefit from it, leaving many other students behind. Daily Vox engaged in a conversation with Pearl Pillay from Youth Lab ZA where many insightful things were said. 

Many students are of the opinion that online learning only benefits privileged students. With the Department of Higher Education and institutions constantly repeating 'No Student Left Behind', it's hard to believe them as the opposite becomes a reality. Online learning seems to have been a good idea but it has been seen that it effectively doesn't work for everyone. 

Daily Vox hosted a webinar where a discussion on the implications of Covid19 on higher education was held, featuring the insights of Youth Lab ZA MD, Pearl Pillay. This discussion brought up the question of who's being left behind and what needs to change within the shift to remote learning. 

A statement expressed by Pearl Pillay especially stuck out. The Department adopted the phrase, 'save the academic year, save lives' but she said that what one would notice is that the academic year is always spoken first and then the lives of students. This, Pillay says, gives the impression that Government is putting the academic year above students' lives and not considering student experiences during this pandemic. She said, "when we plan for youth, youth has to be in the front of mind. The main thing is not just academics". 

Another opinion is that government seems to not have provided for students adequately during this time. This comes as a result of inequalities that have been present for many years and Pillay then said that as far as higher education goes, more would've been done should these inequalities have been addressed and improved. Those in power have made many promises but there has been an issue in the implementation of those promises. To fix this, it was said that Government would need to re-prioritise and confront those inequalities. 

Amongst many issues such as access, the mental health of many students has also been neglected during this time and has affected how students are able to grapple online learning. Some students have difficulty interacting with their peers as they are not coping as their peers would and one students told The Daily Vox that he feels "in limbo". This pandemic has also had extreme consequences such as loss of lives occurring. Suicides of students is another issue that institutions have not publicly spoken on and addressed but is a reality for some. 

Even though privileged students have access to resources to continue online learning, they too have said that they are struggling. Students are learning from documents and slides and not actively from a lecturer. Many have also felt that they've just been chasing deadlines and doubting their abilities and their degrees. With conversations of many students wanting to de-register, this becomes more evident and the question of how students are supposed to continue normally during an abnormal time is then posed. 

Learning is not at the level it should be and lecturers are not providing students with the support they need. It is however important to remember that lecturers are not trained to teach from home and are having their own difficulties and the pressure is therefore on both the student and the lecturer. 

Students have had to change their mindsets and attitudes towards the schoolwork which is a challenge all in itself and not only having the weight of finishing schoolwork, but to find the will to actually get up every morning and do it. 

A solution that was put forth was that the academic year could be pushed back so that everyone as well as education itself can adapt and then students, institutions and government can ease back into the normal academic year. Government seems to be lacking empathy towards students during this time and therefore need to actually consider the impacts of remote learning. 

Pillay said that, "government is using so many scapegoats to show us that they don't know what they're doing" and that they aren't talking and listening to those who are actually affected. 


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