School Life in the Pandemic

Anisah Rahman from Haverstock School shares her experience of the year’s restrictions and lockdown

Wondrous moments are running through my brain.

Where should I start?

Let’s start with results day. COVID-19 somehow found a way to seep into my big day with all its restrictions. Results were emailed to us this year but we had the option to come in and physically collect them. I went with the second option choosing to collect my results. That meant going outside for the first time in ages.

I waited in the car, sitting cross legged in my attire; tight jeans and a blue flowery loose top. Walking into school, I was told that my father could not join me. What?! My own father could not be part of my results. He was devastated being ready to capture the moment with his camera and phone by his side. So much for a normal results day.

Luckily, my friends would film my reaction instead. I gently careened my phone: hard but secure. I couldn’t believe I was relying on this inanimate object to stabilise my ever increasing blood pressure.

Collecting the envelope, my heart was racing as fast as a cheetah.

The next few seconds was literally just me jumping up and down, with screams of joy! I had done it! 10 GCSEs were laid out on the paper that contained a mixture of the top grades 9s and 8s (both of those grades equates to A*s or As).

Checking my phone, I noticed 20 missed calls from both my parents. Poor them! My mum was anxiously waiting from home and my dad patiently waiting outside for me to share the news. They celebrated in smiles and tears of joy!

These instantaneous moments made me reflect on some of the amazing achievements I had made in lockdown. From honing my creative skills and passion to create change by designing and programming my own mental health app which has been endorsed by MasterCard and the NHS.  To bravely questioning the Head of Nestle Cereals in UK and Ireland and Tesco’s Group Quality Director over their targeted marketing of HFFS rich food to very young children (that includes my youngest sister) And appearing on This Morning, BBC Radio 1 & 5, and being interviewed in Waitrose Magazine and The Mirror about my campaigning for a healthier and inclusive food system, specifically free school meal support for the holidays. I also started my own political talk show and tech podcast

Lockdown was difficult but it broadened my horizons, suggesting it may have not been entirely the worst experience of my life as I had previously thought it would be. I never want to go into lockdown again though. But what I am trying to articulate is that there is a silver lining to everything, if we don’t let COVID-19 change our individuality and passion.

Waking up at 7am to go back to school in September was a real challenge. I just felt so groggy. How had I even been able to do this routine before lockdown? I was due in school at 9am, but had to wake up early so that my brothers could reach school on time. I was genuinely exhausted and it was only the first day of school.

The outside air was pretty much the same, both fresh yet rich with the pungent and intoxicating smell of diesel oil. I could never distinguish what the smell of air was like before.

But the car journey felt different. This was my second time going outside into the real world since March. The physical landscape of Camden had really not changed. It felt like I was plunging back into normality but my eyes felt too heavy to focus properly. Curling up in the car, the rush off traffic became a soft humming noise, like a womb,

Soon, I would be delivered to school. The car’s belly rocked as the traffic grew heavier and the rocking made me sleepy. Traffic on the first day, maybe, I thought we are returning to normal.

I was nervous as this was still my first day of sixth form but I was excited too. Soon, I would finally be seeing all my friends once again in school and studying my favourite subjects.

Walking into school the antiseptic smell surrounding me swam before my confused senses. We now had hand washing stations in the playground where we would wash our hands three times a day. Hand sanitisers were installed in each classroom as well. Some students, including me were wore face masks.

Prowling through the school initially felt strange, it felt like I could no longer recognise anyone or anything. Until the school pips signalled the start of lessons and the childish laughter in the corridor drew me in, like a moth entranced by lurid light. I was finally enjoying school and becoming accustomed to the new precautions in place, and I was finally interacting with other people outside of my laptop.

Although paranoia was evident, young people were happy to return to school. Opening schools is a big step, so here’s to hoping that we just are all safe and well.

In November a hard ball of lead formed in the pit of my stomach when I discovered that I was actually a shield patient. What that means is that I’m considered to be extremely vulnerable to the virus, so I couldn’t attend school until 2nd December.

I was not really going back to this way of living, was I?

What was going on? I had just got into the groove of school. The curious sensation of knowing that I was going to be completely and utterly alone doing online classes enveloped me. I was no longer going to be seeing the familiar faces of my friends. Virtual lessons felt like a blast from the past that I had left. National Lockdown from earlier on should have been an end to a chapter, a diary entry that I should not have to explore again.

But here I am writing yet again about another lockdown the only difference being that this time not all young people are in this together, including my own brothers who were still able to attend school.

What’s more strange to me is that rather than inducing feelings of unsettlement and shivers, after two hours of virtual lessons, I was almost comforted. Almost.

The shriek of a train close to my home was a knife blade to my thoughts, and I raised my gaze to fixate back on my laptop that had a slide of notes on the Body Politic from Hamlet. Hamlet is a character that often muses over depression, going into great lengths about how these emotions are the archetypes of his soul. I always found him rather odd but I am suddenly am seeing how being alone in one space can really get you thinking about the world and experiences you have in a deepened sense.

My little sister saved the day though… She somehow was able to unmute the microphone on my laptop and say “look it’s school” and “bye sir”. I can’t tell what’s more hilarious – my little sister now experiencing online classes with me or the students in the class hearing her voice as if I was ghost hovering around. Ha ha. Oh my god it’s just like Hamlet! Drawing these similarities between my life and the play feels like I’m trying to mesh my school life and personal home life together.

COVID-19 has made me feel like I’m in a book tragedy. But I know this measure is needed to save lives, so let’s just hope a light and Shakira (my little sister) keeps swooping in to help me rationalise my newly changed life.

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