Pakistan – Ayza Nazir
When it was just announced that we were going to have a lockdown, I was at first really nonchalant about it. I thought it would be over by the next two months or something. I didn’t really mind being at home – I was actually kind of happy because that meant I got out of giving my exams. I don’t usually go outside that much – I prefer to stay inside. So when COVID happened, I wasn’t exactly you know, expecting a big change or something. But now, it’s just gone on for so long – I’m not too happy about that.
Thankfully, nobody in my immediate family has gotten the virus, although a few of our family friends have. Unfortunately, most of them did not recover due to their age bracket – they were pretty much in their 60s. So there was no chance of recovering for them. But one of my dad’s friend who got it did recover two weeks later.
There’s been very intense ups and downs during this lockdown for me. Throughout a majority of quarantine, I wasn’t exactly in the most friendly of moods, because I saw people around me on Instagram or my friends, just hanging out. Them not following regulations just to keep going out and seeing other people made me really bitter and mad.
Every summer vacation, I would come around and visit some of my paternal relatives living in the Bay Area. My paternal family lives somewhere near the coast. I didn’t go this year because of COVID, but usually I would have gone.
To be honest, I’m starting to get exhausted. I really kind of want to go outside right now. There’s been no radical changes though, which is good. I really did mess up my sleeping schedule, which was not that good. But I did rediscover some hobbies, which has been pretty fun. I used to digitally draw a lot and do art, but I stopped because there was so much happening at school. Then when COVID came around, I got the chance to kind of reinvest myself and rediscover my hobbies. If I’m watching any show now, and I like one character, I’ll just randomly draw them out of the blue. I don’t really sit there and plan. Sometimes I do illustrations when the inspiration strikes too. I’ve also started rewatching TV shows like Supernatural and Blood of Zeus. I recently started watching Schitt’s Creek, and have finished two seasons of the show.
I also joined Twitter, which was really fun. I joined the Supernatural and Blood of Zeus fandoms and got in touch with people around the world.
My friends and I don’t talk too much now. But the good thing is that our friendships aren’t high maintenance where we need to talk every day. So with my friendships, nothing much has changed per se. We do text and meet up during online lectures though.
With my family, my relationships have definitely taken off. It’s been something very different. We don’t normally express many emotions with each other. We wouldn’t communicate as much because my parents pretty much already knew everything I would do. Now, my parents and I are talking a lot and they listen to me much more than before. We’ve not gotten much closer but we understand each other better now.
Starting early December, our classes are now virtual. They were closed for a while before and reopened on September 15 – but I still did not go to class at that time. Normally, I would have taken the bus to school. However, my parents are both at a very high risk level for COVID so they prefer to do things on their own and didn’t make me go to school. If we ever need to go back to school, they think it’s better for them to drop me off rather than me taking the bus, where they don’t know what’s happening. Considering that our government has imposed like another lockdown, this is our second time shifting into online learning. And that’s probably going to be it’s probably going to be that way until at least mid-December.
I didn’t go to school for at least a month when they reopened. So I have extra lessons I take privately for seven of my eight classes. So online classes aren’t really beneficial to me because I’ve already done those chapters and topics in school at home with my tutors. My school didn’t exactly have an alternative to physical classes once school reopened, but they did give us the option to stay at home if we wanted, which definitely helped.
Most of our teachers are actually relatively old. So at first, they had a hard time figuring out how to exactly operate classes virtually, but now they’re fine with it. During our first shift to virtual learning, they definitely struggled a lot, but they are coping pretty well now. Notably, some of my teachers offered to help me out here and there when they were free, especially since I’d been out of school for a while there. My history teacher told me that she could give me the lectures separately from the class, which was fine with me. My literature teacher said she was willing to hold alternative exams for me. In a way, they’ve provided alternatives for me rather than just, guiding me through the process of studying on my own.
Currently, our classes start at 8am and end at around 2pm. During the day, we mostly have eight subjects a day. But that depends because sometimes teachers exchange their subjects they’re teaching with other teachers’ classes, so some subjects can last longer than others. Outside of Pakistan, people have different classes that they physically go to for different subjects – like a separate class for economics and whatnot.
Apart from this, the most we have to do is tie our hair before school and have our cameras on, although barely anybody actually ties their hair. The camera rule is strictly enforced though – our Headmistress does come into our classes sometimes to make sure we have our cameras on at all times.
One really big problem with online classes has been the electricity and connectivity issues. Sometimes there’s no electricity to keep everything running and internet services here can be very unstable. Just a while back, there was no electricity at my place for nearly 15 hours! Luckily it was a Saturday and I did not have any school. But the school does understand when we can’t connect to class because they’re experiencing the same issues too.
Still, missing out classes is super stressful. The week school started, my electricity went out for half an hour. I had a really important class, which I had to get to. I was frantically messaging everyone in my class to tell the teacher I wouldn’t be able to make it. I was able to use my data and get back online later – so it was definitely way better than the 15 hour shortage. All the same, the overall experience was really scary.
Pakistan schools have various boards with different curriculum sets according to each province. In my area, we have a Sindh board, which is the local set. Then we have the Cambridge board, based on the UK curriculum and enrolled with the British Council. And then we also have an American standard, that takes tests like the SAT or the ACT.
I am a part of the Cambridge Board. Individually, the schools which are enrolled with the British Council take the GCSE and CIEs, which are basically the equivalent of the ACTs and SATs in the States. Schools can’t bend the syllabus at their own discretion – they have to wait for the people at the back to do something about it. We usually have a British exam session during May through June, and from October to November. So this time, the Board took our previous grades, and passed us on to the next class or colleges based on how we had done. Basically, it was a predictive grading system. To follow through with this, we’re getting a lot more assignments than usual. So for the instance, if we don’t give our exams, the administration has something to go off of to decide who passes and who does not.
In our Board, we have a few primary subjects like math, English and Urdu (our national language). And then we have other subjects like history and geography, and Islam studies. The tests we have depend on the classes we picked back in eighth grade. Specifically, there is a commerce and a science section. Commerce students take business, accounting, and economics, while science students take biology, chemistry and physics. Personally, I’m in the commerce section, so I’ll be taking exams based on that. We take the tests in two batches in the sense that I’ll have to give three exams this academic year for three subjects. And then after that I have to give the rest of my exams in grade 11.
The Sindh board is still having physical examinations as they used to, which is kind of dangerous. On a provincial level though, students have recently stopped going to classes. The government was also trying something called Teleschool, where they basically broadcasted lessons for students on public television. But it was pretty futile, since it was only based on the government set syllabus and didn’t really account for people studying in all these different Boards.
I’m hoping that either the British exams happen, or that they just do some predictive training and I can pass because right now I have no idea what I’m going to do. I really hope for no more major setbacks, because I’ve missed out on so much right now. My main focus moving forward is just to get to Grade 11.