How Have South African Students Adjusted To COVID-19 Almost Two Years Into The Pandemic?

With COVID-19 being a prevalent part of our daily lives for the past year and a half, what initially seemed like an opportunity to get a bit of time off from school and work when the virus first reached South Africa’s doorsteps in March of 2020, has manifested into a deadly global pandemic that has seeped into all of our lives, forcing us to adjust our day-to-day routines to accommodate it.

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Over the past year and a half, COVID-19 has taken control over our lives in unprecedented ways. In addition to the deaths of millions around the world, the pandemic has forced an increase in joblessness, caused massive economic decline, dramatically affected the way in which we as human beings interact with one another, and caused ongoing debate around both the virus and the vaccine’s authenticity. 

When approaching a few South African university-goers about how they have managed to adjust to life under the pandemic, many spoke to the detrimental effect that the pandemic has had on their capability for social interaction. 

Prior to the pandemic, constant social interaction was commonplace within our daily activities. Interacting with colleagues at work, peers at school, cashiers at stores, bank tellers, and so on, all required basic social practice. Now, for our own personal safety and that of those around us, it has become necessary to actively avoid any close contact interaction with others, which has had a terrible effect on people’s sociability.

Some students have not experienced this obligation to social isolation in the best of ways, with one student saying that their social anxiety has increased as a result. Another student put it more simply, saying “I literally just don’t go out”, something that many of us have had to refrain from doing in the interest of our own health.

Others have taken to distracting themselves from this period of relative isolation by whatever means, hoping for a time in the near future in which the pandemic has become a distant memory. Another student notes that her friendship circle has grown smaller as a result of the social constraints of the pandemic, and when it comes to navigating online learning, she says that her schooling schedule has been moulded around her sleep schedule, speaking to the lack of motivation that learning online has brought upon students and how academics have become less of a priority as a result.

However, there are some other students who have managed to see a silver lining in the social restrictions that the pandemic has placed on us, with one student saying “I’ve become a lot more comfortable embracing my introversion”. Many other students with introverted personalities have been able to adjust surprisingly well to the pandemic.

One student shares that he has been able to adapt well to online learning, in particular, because of his introvertedness. Acknowledging that he is in a privileged position to be able to enjoy online learning when others may not be able to say the same, he shares that it has become much less intimidating to contribute to lectures and tutorial groups in the online format. 

He notes how important it has become to be able to adapt to this online experience, being that it is the only university experience he has been afforded, having begun his tertiary education in 2020, when the pandemic first entered South Africa’s borders.

Another student also shared a more positive experience coming out of the social constraints that the pandemic has forced upon us. He says,

 “I’ve engaged more with people overseas on social media and webcasts than I otherwise think I would have. I’ve also become more discerning about the information I receive”.

Even approaching two years of the pandemic, people are still coming to terms with the effect of COVID-19 on their lives, and what has now become ‘the new normal’. Some have managed to adjust better than others, but with the general enthusiasm towards receipt of the vaccine, people are hopeful that a return to some type of normalcy is near. 

 

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