Matric exams are synonymous with stress and anxiety for learners and parents alike. However, once the final paper has been written, relief and excitement reign supreme as this period signifies the end of high school life and the be beginning of adult life, as a future filled with what seems like endless possibilities beckons for the young adults. The euphoria becomes tainted by the approach of the announcement of the matric examination results which becomes a large dose of reality. For the students who have not performed well or as expected, fear, anxiety, stress and depression creep in.
Some students become overwhelmed by stress, fear of failure, rejection by peers and society, angry/disappointed parents, self- loathing and self-pity. When all of these feelings are added to pre-existing problems or issues that the teens are facing, it becomes a tipping point that can at times lead to suicide.
The irony is that failure is a normal part of life. We all inevitably fail at some point in our lives, but for some students, failure is viewed as catastrophic. However, disappointment is not reserved for students who don’t pass; students who set very high goals for themselves or who are used to ‘perfection’ become disappointed or even devastated when they do not reach the expected levels of performance. From all of this, it is evident that matriculants need support, not only during the academic year and up to the exams, but the support provided to them needs to extend past the receipt of their matric results, as some are unable to cope with disappointment.
For the matric students of 2020 the matric obstacle course, became even more complicated as they encountered unexpected, complicated additional hurdles as a result of the pandemic and its effects. Due to the uniqueness of the challenges encountered, there were no tried or tested methods they could draw on for success or even survival, so they had to ‘make-it up as they went along.’ It is without a doubt that they faced heightened levels of uncertainty, anxiety, stress, depression as well as disappointment, as many missed out on the usual highlights of being a matriculant and a high school senior, but could not avoid any of the associated responsibilities and realities. Some of the stresses of the past year may still linger for these students.
One may not understand or may minimise the effect of unfavourable results achieved by a student, but it is important to realise that not achieving the required pass mark, or failing a grade can feel like public humiliation for a student, as they may feel that everyone is judging them by their failure, considers them a failure or that they are laughing at them. For matriculants, the focus on pass rates and education standards, obtaining university exemption and the ability to attend tertiary education may represent the means for escaping unemployment, domestic abuse, bullying and even improving the financial status of the family. The combined pressure can add up to a sometimes lethal mix.
Parents, family members, friends and the community at large are in a position to offer comfort and reassurance to matriculants; that it’s normal to feel worry, disappointment, anger and sadness about their results. Most importantly, they need to assure them that unfavourable examination results do not in any way indicate the end of the road, as there are a number of options open to them to take matters forward.
Many students give up due to not being aware of the options or alternatives available to them, in light of unfavourable results. These range from:
As important as exams are, no exam signifies life or death!
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) provides tips to help students to cope with disappointment or failure and move forward with hope and dignity. They suggest that rather than seeing failing as the end of the road, one needs to “see it as a learning curve, sometimes to know what is right, you need to know what is wrong. If you fail or are disappointed in your results, find out why and use that to improve moving forward”.
Students are encouraged to:
Students need to speak up when they are not coping. However, at times the relationships between children and their parents may not be at their optimal and thus not conducive to open communication or for them to reach out for assistance; at times the parents may themselves not know what to do or say to help out their distressed children! In such cases, the parents need to seek the assistance of those experienced in such matters and are able to assist, such as school counsellors, or an organisation like SADAG who run a counselling helpline that is open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm.
MISA wishes the 2020 class of matriculants all of the best with their examination results and success with their future endeavours. Remember: The Key to Success is to Focus on Goals, Not Obstacles!
MISA also provides a bursary for the funding of tertiary studies of children of MISA Members subject to the applicable terms and conditions, for more information on this benefit, please contact the training department on 011 476 3920 or Training@ms.org.za
Below are contact details of helplines which may be of use to parents and children.
Concerned parents, teachers or peers can contact a SADAG counsellor toll-free on 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 12 13 14, or SMS 31393.
Cipla 24hr Mental Health Helpline 0800 456 789
Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline 0800 70 80 90
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line 24hr helpline 0800 12 13 14 SMS 32312
Suicide Crisis Line 0800 567 567
SADAG Mental Health Line 011 234 4837
Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour 0861 435 787
Cipla Whatsapp Chat Line 076 882 2775