Teaching in the time of a pandemic

Grade 12s being taught by Erin Clothia-Lakay.

Goodwood teacher Erin Chothia-Lakay, 35, has mixed feelings about easing the Covid-19 lockdown to level 3.

 “I understand that we cannot continue with a lockdown indefinitely,” she says. “However, I’m not sure that we were ready to move down a stage when we did. The only difference that change has made in my life is that I am back at work.” 

Ms Lakay has been a teacher for six years, four of them at Fairbairn College in Goodwood. Since lockdown began, she and her colleagues have been teaching online and in constant communication with pupils, but she says not all subjects lend themselves to online teaching. “There’s only so much one can do when you’re not able to fully engage learners in the classroom… It’s important to realise that not all learners have had access to online resources throughout the lockdown. We’re therefore starting from where we left off when school closed.”

She says pupils have coped very well with the changes in their daily routine. “There was quite a sombre atmosphere on the first day, but this is slowly dissipating as we get back into the swing of things. It’s evident that all of them are aware of the severity of the pandemic and the seriousness of Covid-19.”

Ms Lakay is the mother of two young daughters and she says her husband has been very supportive, but because she is the only one in the household who is back at work she fears potentially infecting them.

Before she leaves her Bellville home, she sanitises everything before placing any items in her car and doing the same when she leaves work in the afternoons. One positive, she says, is that traffic has been minimal.

“When I arrive home, I remove all clothing and shower before greeting my family,” she says. “And if I need to take anything into the house, such as bags and so forth, everything gets sanitised first.”

Social distancing makes it hard to connect with colleagues, she says, but they try to find time for a chat if they are on grounds duty together or passing each other in the passages. “WhatsApp has become a crucial form of communication for us during this time,” she says. “In this way we can touch base without feeling like we are putting one another at risk.”

She believes the pandemic will make us all a lot more mindful of what we do and how we do it as well as how our actions affect others.

“I feel this pandemic has forced us to face many realities within ourselves and within our society which will be a vital catalyst for change.” she says. “I look forward to the day that we are all able to spend time with one another.”