A New Normal: Education

New lessons learnt

Local students share their experiences of lockdown

Raahil Amidu Credit: Bella Saltiel

By Bella Saltiel

Education has been significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, as much for learning as it is social. Taking school home has been challenging for Tottenham’s students, with the chaos of the pandemic gobbling up school leavers expectations. It’s been easier to articulate the challenges for GCSE and A-Level students, but less so for year 12, a group of students who, Temi Ashogbon, 17, says, aren’t being ‘taken care of by the government.’

Temi is an ambitious student at Tottenham’s London Academy of Excellence (LAE). She is hoping to study physics, and is preparing for the Oxford University entrance exams.

Temi explains how the disruption of lockdown affected her learning: “At first I was trying to be optimistic and work hard, manipulate it to my benefit.

“I had a plan to get certain grades at the end of the year but after lockdown happened, I didn’t know how to change my plan. I thought my future was over because everything wasn’t going my way, and I didn’t know how to do it this new way. I just ended up switching off.”

“[I couldn’t anticipate] how much it would affect me and really change everything.”

Under lockdown there has certainly been a blurring between social interaction and digital media. One of the most tangible ways in which year 12s have been affected has been through the transition into online learning, at a key point where their mock exams would determine subsequent university offers.

Temi found that social media was making her anxious because her friends were in a constant dialogue about the pandemic and how it could affect their futures. However, it was also comforting that through memes and shared stories there was “this sense of togetherness.”

Temi says that despite the challenges “without lockdown I don’t think I would be the person I am now.”

“I strive for even greater, [but] if things don’t happen it doesn’t really validate my intelligence.

“I don’t regret lockdown. It made me come to the realisation of how much harder I need to work.”

Temi Ashogbon Credit: Bella Saltiel

Raahil Amidu, 17, also studies at LAE. She is hoping to take bio medicine at University College London (UCL), but says the disruption lockdown had on her routine was demotivating and scary, especially when she was at home preparing a hard topic without a teacher.

Raahil says that although she managed to do her homework, it took a lot out of her because her attention span was much lower than what it would have been in school.

Social distancing measures have accelerated online communications and Raahil admits that her phone became her emotional crutch.

Recent data from Ofcom shows that UK adults are spending a record average of four hours a day online, whilst people aged 18-24 are averaging five hours, four minutes online per day. The Health Foundation reports that this form of digital dependence could be triggering anxiety and depression in young people, because replacing personal interaction with online communication can increase feelings of alienation.

Learning online might have other benefits. Temi reported feeling shy in school, but behind a screen, she felt more confident to ask questions and speak up in class.

Raahil says that she can imagine a future where everything is just online because “sometimes it’s easy to just open your laptop and be there in your pyjamas [knowing] no-one can see me.”

Both Temi and Raahil agree that there are still some kinds of teaching where you need a more human connection. This is especially true of going to university and having the full, holistic experience.

There is also a wealth of unknowns about how distance learning in higher education could work, but as an aspiring medic, Raahil says: “I’m going to have to get my hands dirty one way or another.”

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