A teacher has approached Parent24, sharing the heartbreaking story of her experience of returning to school.
She wrote a letter approaching Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, stating her daily battles of teaching children under immense pressure and in a potentially unsafe environment.
Her letter is as follows:
As an educator for 13 years, I wish I could talk to you personally. I wish that I could articulate the way I am feeling currently. Last night, I struggled to sleep. I’ve been in a Grade 12 class since the onset of phasing in.
It has become a norm for me to take a sleeping tablet at night to calm my thoughts, my mind and my heart (which constantly palpitates at high volumes).
Before it kicks in, I lay awake, wondering what tomorrow will hold for me. Having had a number of colleagues come and go as a result of Covid-19, isolation, comorbidities, fear, anxieties, and ‘normal’ illnesses, I have fought with myself to soldier on.
I lay awake thinking of my aged father who lives with me as I lost my mother a year ago, and I have had to force him out of his safe home to look after my kids as both my husband and I head out to work daily.
I think about my current learners who I need to take care of, not just teach but screen, sanitize, observe, motivate, and calm, among so many other things, while dealing with my fear and anxieties.
I lay awake worrying about returning learners, did they practice social distancing?
Did they adhere to the rules laid down by the government? Did they sanitize? Are they coming from homes where there are no cases of Covid?
I worry about this because being back at school, we have discovered that our learners are told to keep their parents and guardians Covid status a secret.
Each day, I lie awake, unable to sleep because I again have to start all over fixing my mind, my heart, and my breathing.
Today, after leaving home, after having prayed and prayed, I felt like a soldier, going into war with no idea of what to expect.
I drive to my school, much earlier than usual, and I arrive in the dark. I pray again silently in the parking lot upon entering. I must be screened, sanitized, checked in and then head to my unsure destination.
I read what my duties are and where I must be.
My job no longer encompasses what I love.
It has now instilled great fear in me, and will probably affect how I teach. I was never just a teacher, I was always much more than that, but now I must be able to administer medical advice.
‘Do you have a cough? Headache? Shortness of breath?’ I ask my kids, among other things. I head to class, now I need to sanitize desks, door handles, etc. I need to seat these kids, explain to them every day that they please need to adhere to the new rules; and tell them to please keep social distancing. I know it is difficult, but it is what it is. We have to make an abnormal situation normal.
I understand their fears and anxieties. I understand they are probably not coping well. I understand that I can’t share these exact feelings I have with them. I need to be strong for them.
I need to act like everything is going to be okay, that everything is going to be normal again. I have to be strong for my own kids. I have to be strong, I have to be strong. I cannot break.
But, I understand nothing! I am not strong! I am lying! I am lying to myself, to my family, to my learners. I am lying so that I can protect them.
But you! You are lying to us all; you are lying to protect yourself and not your people. You are lying because you don’t know jack about what we’re going through. You don’t know jack about this lump in my throat.
We are understaffed, and we hardly manage a day. We’re like headless chickens; we don’t know whether it’s going to work, because it’s not working!
Our kids either come from homes with Covid or are going home with Covid to their grandparents looking after them.
They’re struggling inside, imagine they go home and infect those grandparents? What effect will it have on them? Do you know some of my colleagues are struggling with depression? Do you know some are coming to school with symptoms? Why? Because they need to finish the syllabus?
You see teachers, but you forget we’re human. You see teachers, but you forget some of us are children, some of us are parents, some of us are grandparents, some of us are breadwinners, and so much more.
You want to control us from you homes and empty offices, from your laptops, and social media.
You want us to listen to you while you dictate to us what is good for us. Have you actually sat down with teachers? Do you know that every school has different struggles? Why didn’t you allow our input?
Bugger the union who are complacent with your whims and fancies. Why don’t you listen to the ones who sit in the classes, who deal with issues beyond teaching?
Come and sit in our school, in our classrooms. Come and do our jobs! See our reality and stop assuming you know what’s right for us!"