by Wendy Young

Disclaimer: These thoughts are in no way meant to detract from the pain and suffering many have felt due to the pandemic which hit our country in March of this year. Our love and prayers are with anyone who has lost a loved one or a job in this time.

Here we find ourselves in September 2020 already! 75% through our year. The buzz on many lips, in the news and from the schoolteachers is that 2020 has been a wasted year. I disagree.

A painful year
A year of change
A year of growth
A challenging year
A year of opportunity
A year of reflection perhaps…but not wasted.

This is what I have seen in over the last few months:

As a regular dog walker and hiker, I have noticed so many more people taking this up. It was a wonderful thing to see families out every day between 6 and 9am initially walking together. When restrictions changed, our regular walks in the plantation became gathering grounds for families every evening. Children were building “houses” with tree debris, creating dams in the river, running with dogs and riding bikes with parents. I remark on it, because for the previous years it was always a woman or man with a dog, but now it’s been whole families.

Shirley and I, via our Footprints website, emails and on Facebook have been inundated with queries about homeschooling. Some parents were looking to remote school until 2021, but many have made a permanent switch to homeschooling as they have seen how much better their children work in the home. Some have even chosen to walk away from restrictive curricula in favour of a more eclectic tailor-made approach to home education. New Facebook groups have sprung up to support and advise parents in the role that was thrust upon them. The media shone the light on homeschooling as no longer a “weird” option for the fringe groups, but as a perfectly viable educational choice.

Due to the inability of many households to have domestic help, we have seen how privileged families teamed together to conquer the daily cleaning and gardening needs. Children have learnt to cook meals, vacuum floors and plant vegetables. These skills often get brushed aside but are truly some of the most important life lessons that need to be taught.

Entrepreneurship has become a topic discussed around many dining room tables as parents and children have spoken about job security. Parents, who have found themselves with reduced income have shown great adaptability in budgets, looking at other incomes streams and where necessary taken their business online via live streaming, Instagram TV and other platforms.

Some families have launched initiatives and other feeding schemes to help those most impacted by lockdown. Teaching children to care for others in need is an opportunity to create a lifelong habit where they consider others before themselves.

By and large in the homeschooling community, life continued as normal, with no extra murals, but due to the nature of home education, we all seemed to just carry on doing what we always did – that is, living life alongside our children.

Besides for these positives, on a larger scale the pandemic has allowed a magnifying glass to enlarge some very serious and concerning situations in our country – from schools which do not have running water or toilets for their children to hospitals which are understaffed and poorly run. It has again highlighted corruption in the ranks of our government which needs to be rooted out. We have seen people come together to pray for one another, to reach out to the aged, to animals in distress and babies needing adoption.

As the country slowly changes gear, and we walk forward into a new normal with a struggling economy there will be many, many more learning experiences for us all. But I suppose the difference is whether we will rise to the challenge as South African’s do with a strong backbone and a sense of humor or allow them to get us down. I do hope for all of us it will be the former.