Persevering amidst the darkness

Illustration by Nino Mekanarishvili

Triven Govender offers some practical advice to his fellow students regarding distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is light at the end of this pandemic, but it requires diligence and perseverance to get there, argues Triven Govender, a second-year engineering student.

From the Black Death in the early 1350s to the SARS virus in 2003, amongst many conspiracy theories, no one truly anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects. One of the major effects being on the education sector.

It is without a doubt that learning is not a relaxed task, particularly Mathematics. While we currently face a nation-wide lockdown with this pandemic, how can it be any easier? With students at home, it becomes difficult for questions to be answered, productively engaging with learning material, connecting to online platforms, while dealing with unexpected interruptions and distractions.

So, you might be asking yourself, how can I turn this pandemic into an opportunity?

During the pandemic I have gone through many methods and attempts to combat this feeling of being overwhelmed. In this article I would like to discuss a strategy and some tips that have assisted me in turning this adversity into victory.

The first step is to have a set time to get up in the morning and go to bed at night. Sounds cliché, but trust me, scheduling times that fit your program and finding the optimum duration of sleep, not only helps with recovery from study sessions but promotes a healthy lifestyle as well. Incorporating a healthy diet, daily exercise and hydration supports a clear and fresh mind when starting your day. Adopting these habits has not only stimulated me to study, but also resulted in a healthier me who has become confident and looks forward to taking on the next day’s challenges.

Procrastination is often present and highly detrimental to achieve your goals. It becomes evident when you reflect while learning during this pandemic, that it is driven mainly through online platforms. Still, procrastination can be combated in many ways.

Illustration by Liani Malherbe

An approach I use is making my learning experience comfortable and pleasant. I find that drawing pictures of ideas, plotting mind maps and linking memorable events to learning material helps with my recollection and understanding the work better.

If this is not your cup of tea, then another method I use in conjunction with the above approach, is trying to understand the material in a way that you could teach it to someone who has never been exposed to the material. For a more collaborative and fruitful outcome of this strategy, I would recommend conducting online group study sessions where participants are committed and take turns in explaining the material from their point of view. This can help build new and creative ways of analysing the material that may help students who are struggling with specific sections or chapters of the learning material. In the case where students are unsure or doubtful about a discussion, students should reach out and communicate with their educators through available platforms.

Another problem arises in terms of internet connectivity. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing matter which is out of the student’s and educators’ control. Although, it would be worth the recommendation that your educator records the session he/she is presenting and makes the recording available on an accessible platform. In union with this recommendation, research into reducing file size without compromising quality is worth the time invested to cater for students with limited data.

Lastly, I found keeping a journal of my goals forces me to commit to them. Referencing to these goals constantly reminds me of my targets as I aim for what I define as success. Motivating myself to persevere and find enjoyment in my studies has gradually magnified my perspective of studying and being passionate in Mathematics. I would encourage and recommend taking occasional breaks from your studies and reflecting on your goals and how you could optimise your next study session to ensure a greater outcome.

In the vast array of the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggle to find a balance to optimally perform in your studies, it all comes down to the pure diligence and determination one is prepared to undertake. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and scientist, once said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light”. Thus, it will be evident that, through the practice of diligence, we see the light of perseverance overcome the dark moments of the pandemic.

Triven Govender

2nd Year Engineering Student,

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