The Lost Year: Is the matric Class of 2020 ok? Not really

At this rate, 2020 is sure to become known as 'the lost year'. 

It will forever be remembered as the year we missed out on engagements, weddings, baby showers, births, birthday parties, and even funerals.

For the students of 2020 it's the year they only just got a foot in the door before they had to adjust to a new, unprecedented, way of learning. And now, as schools begin to reopen after three months of Covid-19 lockdown it feels to many that it's too late to get that time back.

And most especially for South Africa's thousands of matric students. 

One young woman recently posted this on Twitter, and the response provided some insight into how our 2020 matriculants are feeling right now: 

The post has over 3 500 likes and 1 200 shares, and many young people are commenting that they agree. 

@tshepiso_MM agreed "We really aren't" while @peachyzzzest said "I don't see a light at the end of this tunnel" 

@Lebogan93135311 was a little more optimistic, saying "I am not okay but I guess I really wanna get done with high school that I don't see that my life is danger. But then if the 1976 youth did it why cant we do it also?" 

@SeanegoOfentse summed it up most succinctly "Everything is just mezz'd up".

The disappointments of 2020 

It's not just students who feel this way, and local parenting groups are filled with questions and stories from concerned moms and dads who are wondering how to support their matriculant through his rough year. 

One mother shared that for her son "the disappointments of his 2020 final school year is tough for him to digest, especially in a body filled with hormones and still settling into early manhood." 

"My son is also very sad / mad / angry / annoyed at all the 'things that won’t happen in my Matric year', wrote another mom, while a different parent shared that "It's terribly sad for the Matrics and I don't blame them for being despondent, nobody could be prepared for this." 

Milestones and marks

It's no surprise though. This last year of high school is supposed to be filled with milestones like the matric dance, a last chance to make captain of a sporting team or make a mark as head boy or head girl. 

And then there are the final exams that are to be the foundation of a career. While we know that matric results don't have to define a teen's future, it is an important element of getting started.

With all these experiences and opportunities either cancelled, postponed or moved online, it's no wonder our teens are not ok.

So how can we help? 

We chatted to Kate Rowe, a South African emotional wellness coach, who agreed that for most of us 2020 has been a year of profound loss, uncertainty, and change.

"We have been asked to give up so much and adapt to a new way of life," she told Parent24. "Some have had to give up more than others, especially people who have had to let go of significant life events and life transitions.'  

The Grade 12’s in particular have been affected by this, she says, with no matric dance, not being able to experience the final year of school, the opportunity to be in a leadership role or making a top sports team.

All consuming

"The disappointment can feel all consuming," Rowe says.

So how, in these moments can we support them to find their way through to the other side?

"Disappointment is a complex emotion and it can open the door to many other feelings like anger, apathy, grief, and heart ache," she explains.

To support and help our kids, Rowe says, it is important to validate and empathize, but because disappointment is such an uncomfortable emotion to sit with, we may find ourselves wanting to find the silver lining quickly to avoid having to feel our own or others disappointment.

"Dig deep, find your courage and practice feeling and being with what is uncomfortable," she advises.

Finding your way through disappointment  

When you are willing to do this for yourself, you also encourage and support those around you to do it, Rowe explains.

"Talking about what you are feeling and why is an important part of finding your way through this multifaceted emotion. However, this does not mean staying permanently in the feeling of disappointment, it does mean giving time and space to allow it to be seen and spoken about."  

By leaning into the discomfort and making time to feel, the process of finding a way through can begin and you start to create space to breathe and start to see things differently, Rowe says.

This will lead to an opening or an opportunity to put the situation into perspective, to find the bright spots and the silver lining for either yourself or your child. 

An ongoing process

"It is important to acknowledge that this is not a linear process, one moment your child may feel excited about a new possibility and then in the next moment they are hit by another wave of disappointment," she adds.

"Keep going, keep feeling, keep making space to talk about what is going on, even if you may feel that the subject is closed or that they should move on." 

Rowe stresses that acceptance of what is happening is not always easy.

"I believe we can trust that over time there will be an acceptance of what has been lost and excitement for the future will appear again."


In order to empathise with someone’s experience, you must be willing to believe them as they see it, and not how you imagine their experience to be. – Brene Brown

How is your matric student handling 2020? And how are you helping? Share your tips with us!

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