This self-reflection on my journey presents the challenges, possibilities and coping as a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic as a postgraduate student in UKZN’s School of Education. I also offer some recommendations on how postgraduate students can cope with the anxiety, stress and confusion caused by the pandemic and the uncertainties surrounding it.
When South Africa reported its first case of COVID-19, I was spending my last two days at the four-week Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Centre Southern Africa’s Leadership Development Programme for the Education Sector at Unisa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership in Gauteng.
When President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa announced that schools would close on 18 March, I was sure Higher Education Institutions would follow. As much as I was happy with the precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 my heart was filled with sadness, confusion and pain because my plans for the 2020 academic year were going down the drain. The thing that worried me the most was that, while I knew that I had potential to lead myself and continue with my studies in selected modules, network and internet connectivity were going to be my biggest enemies as a deep rural student.
After the 21-day lockdown was announced, I felt like I was losing hope. I felt empty, depressed and vulnerable as a result of having my everyday academic and community engagement work disrupted.
However, I was able to achieve a paradigm shift from these uncertainties to re-gaining my “normal” life by searching for sites that would help me to cope. Among others, sites and organisations such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, the World Health Organisation, Department of Health and Psychology Today helped me to deal with the dilemmas of COVID-19.
I argue that self-study/self-reflection and accepting that one is battling with a particular problem or that one has shifted from every day “normal” life/routines, are the key to finding possible solutions. I therefore recommend that students and people in general examine themselves and seek help, where necessary to enable them to cope in these uncertain times.
Mr Luthando Molefe is a postgraduate student (Teacher Development Studies) at UKZN’s School of Education