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Youth are missing more than anything else… their friends

The Catholic News has been looking at the impact of virtual learning on the different groups involved. You can see the previous articles: “In the new normal, teachers being schooled” and “Virtual learning – Parents’ perspectives”

This week we got feedback from students in both primary and secondary Catholic schools, as well as university students.

For the primary school pupils and secondary school students, their face-to-face interactions with friends is understandably an absence that is felt. Seeing their friends on Zoom, said one child, makes them somehow feel that they are not real. For the tertiary-level students interviewed, the hands-on approach is the major area that makes virtual learning less than ideal.
It is necessary as parents and teachers, given the absence of peer-group interaction, that the mental wellbeing of our children take priority.  Be easy on them, check in on them regularly, and for parents of teenagers who can easily become closed off, drag them out! What new daily ritual in your home have you added to help alleviate the isolation and stress your children may be feeling?

Primary School

Female, 11, Standard Five

The 11-year-old feels online classes are harder. “It is a little more work, we’re trying out stuff now”. Google Classroom, Google Meet and Zoom are used.  Flipgrid is used to create videos for projects.
She mentioned challenges adjusting to online for classes saying some classmates would get “lost” or some forgot the class code to log in.
She said in Google Meet the class is muted so no one can hear each other until they are unmuted.  She recalled two children whom the teacher could not unmute so they could only text. “There is more stuff to check out and go to different [web] sites.”
She mentioned connectivity problems caused when electricity went, or the computer “sticks” due to internet issues. “Sometimes children come in for three minutes and come off, and never come back”. The teacher’s use of the shared screen for pupils to see work can be difficult at times because she cannot see words or sentences clearly. “Sometimes the words are too small”.
“It feels different. I am seeing them on the video Zoom but not in real”. She missed talking directly to her friends and social interaction.

Male, 10, Standard 3

“I like it cause it’s shorter.”

Male, 6, Infants 2

“I miss doing my schoolwork at school. I miss when we get break and we could play, but I also like doing schoolwork at home.”

Secondary School

15-year-old female, Form 4

“The advantages I see in online learning is that I feel like I have more time to organise myself. I can concentrate better, and I can wear comfortable clothing (once it’s appropriate). The disadvantages are that I can’t see my friends often, sending in work is sometimes difficult, and connectivity issues, yay. It is easy to miss due dates if you don’t check regularly and when work piles up in files, it looks more overwhelming.
To cheer myself up, I sing into the void, because, who knew singing was so freeing? I go on drives with my parents so that I don’t die of life being so mundane.  I keep in touch with humans and reflect on myself every now and then when the situation gets a bit hectic.
On my free time, I use my phone (ahahaa no surprise), play the piano, write songs, write poems, and write stories about characters from shows I like. I call friends and catch up. Can’t let friendships fade.”

Female, 13,  Form 2

“I enjoy mine [online classes]. I only miss seeing my friends in person and miss going to school but other than that I like online.”

Female 15, Form 4

“I find it more difficult to focus and get work done. I also miss my friends and socialising which makes school that much more bearable. Since I’m doing new subjects in a new class, I wish we could be present to adjust better.”

Male 14, Form 3

“In my opinion, I like the online classes to a point. Even though I can’t see my friends, I can see them on Zoom and work with them on some assignments.  One advantage for me is that even though you are not face to face with your classmates, you can still do projects with your friends online. On the other hand, one disadvantage for me is that you have to take down a lot of notes and after I do that my hand hurts most of the times. I think I am coping very well because I am always determined to finish all my tasks or assignments. During my downtime, I mostly workout, play football and catch up on some of my schoolwork. I miss physical school because you get to see your friends and kicks around.”


First year, 18, Double major in biology and environmental science

“As a UWI student, I would say I feel slightly lost. The lectures and online classes are very organised, but without being there in person it’s hard to feel motivated and get updated on assignments and all that. So, in a way, I don’t know where I really am or how I’m really doing, which is why I say lost.”

Male 20,  Civil Engineering

“Ok, well to me in some cases the online teaching not too bad honestly. But when it comes to interacting with the teachers via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, it’s kind of tough because sometimes your microphone might not be working properly. Also, with certain subjects you would want a more hands-on approach with the teachers but with the online classes, it would be hard to grasp the calculation aspects of the subject.
I am doing civil engineering and most of our courses has a practical aspect to it. Now with the online classes, we don’t have that. Is like getting taught how to fix a car without even trying the practical aspect of fixing the car. In my downtime, I exercise, watch anime, play video games, and watch Netflix.”

Male 20, Banking and Finance

“I really dislike the online learning experience. I find myself easily distracted and somehow my lectures have gotten very boring. I think my lecturers need to be trained in their delivery of the courses in this new virtual learning space. The positive about the online learning is the access to class. I get off of bed and go online. That’s it. I don’t find myself rushing across campus to get to class.”

By Simone Delochan