As educators, our world has been upended. We are navigating uncharted waters, facing new realities, grappling with extreme uncertainty, and left pondering the future.

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In the midst of the relentless influx of information surrounding COVID-19, we’ve all been exposed to a plethora of overwhelming data. The predictions, opinions, and news – often confusing and conflicting – regarding the consequences of this pandemic on our society, livelihoods, and industries are bombarding us from all directions. It’s an avalanche of information that can feel insurmountable. Amid this informational storm, we are also confronting our own reality – the rapid adaptations, decision-making, and survival strategies that have become our daily routine. Change has swept in faster than ever before, ushering in new situations that demand quick responses. The education sector is not immune to these challenges. As educators, our world has been upended. We are navigating uncharted waters, facing new realities, grappling with extreme uncertainty, and left pondering the future.

Facing Daunting Realities

It’s undeniable – the times are daunting, intimidating, and understandably scary for everyone involved. The continuous barrage of social media, news outlets, and information channels makes it hard to escape the cacophony of voices speculating on the pandemic’s impact. Amidst this chaos, we are confronted with the loss of a fundamental component of human life – the power of human connection and community. While not everyone may experience this loss in the same way, the significance of human connection in shaping our experiences and learning opportunities cannot be denied. We are, after all, social beings – biologically and psychosocially wired to crave human connections, both profound and simple. The warmth of a friend’s embrace, the surge of creativity following a stimulating discussion with colleagues, the joy of achieving collective goals – these are perspectives we might have taken for granted.

It’s a moment of reflection, a reminder that human connection, community, and the unmasked smiles that accompany them are the nourishment for our souls and minds. Our educational institutions are built upon this very foundation of connection – classrooms, staff rooms, sports teams – all suddenly vanished in the blink of an eye.

The Essence of Resilience

The word “resilience” refers to our capacity to recover from challenges. In the global context, resilience is being put to the test as industries and economies grind to a halt. Some sectors have even faced complete collapse, leaving many unemployed, under heightened pressure, and gripped by anxiety about the uncertain future. On a local scale, South Africa – known for its staggering inequality – is entering its twelfth week of lockdown, placing it among the nations with the longest lockdown durations. The resilience of South Africa’s people, including its education system comprising schools, teachers, learners, and parents, is undergoing an unprecedented trial.

Varied Impacts on South African Schools

The impacts of this pandemic will be diverse across South African schools. While some schools manage to sustain a semblance of community, human interaction, and virtual learning, the majority struggle to adapt. One certainty remains – the reality each of us faces will be uniquely different. Unfortunately, some learners and educators are confronted with the grim prospect of disrupted school years, the absence of school support networks and communities, and challenging home environments. It’s crucial that, amidst these evolving circumstances, we as an educational community embrace the philosophy of community. As we navigate this testing phase, we must place a renewed emphasis on the human aspect of education, fostering valuable platforms for connection and learning.

Applying Lessons from The Culture Code

In “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle, three skills central to successful teams and cultures are elegantly outlined: building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose. Although Coyle’s perspective stems from organizational psychology, these skills are inherently applicable to the strategies aimed at building resilience within our educational community. They encapsulate the essence of community – a concept that holds profound significance in these times.

Strengthening the Education Community

The lockdown has brought to the forefront the importance and power of social cohesion – the essence of community. The question arises: should we not strengthen the South African education community? If our goal is to achieve this, Coyle’s framework suggests we need to address powerful questions:

  • Building Safety: How can we create platforms that facilitate bonds, shared belonging, and identity among teachers from diverse backgrounds?
  • Share Vulnerability: How can we provide platforms for teachers to share authentic experiences, learn from one another, and foster cooperation?
  • Establish Purpose: How can we establish platforms that enable teachers to craft a cohesive narrative?

The challenges we face collectively are undoubtedly easier to tackle than those faced alone. This could be an opportunity for our extensive educational community to unite more closely than ever before. While definitive answers may elude us at present, COVID-19 is undeniably ushering in new perspectives on interventions and opportunities:

  • Restoring Societal Equity: Reclaiming equitable societal systems
  • Redefining Education: Reinventing the essence of education and schooling
  • Prioritising Sustainability Education: Rethinking curriculum content and advocating for stronger cases in sustainability education

The team at Plant the Seed is dedicated to fostering a sense of community among stakeholders within the education sector. Through our PTY & NPC, we strive to introduce education interventions – both large and small – in low and high-income schools.

While the pandemic continues to rock the foundations of the educational community, it simultaneously unfurls opportunities that were once mere dreams. We are committed to serving as a supportive network for the invaluable members of South Africa’s education community. Though turbulent times lie ahead, they also carry within them unprecedented opportunities.

Stay tuned – exciting developments are on the horizon. The journey continues.

Starting your sustainability journey can be daunting, starting with waste is often the easiest first step. That’s why Plant the Seed has created a school waste audit. It is quick, affordable, and provides you with all the key insights and solutions to help you become a zero-waste school and contribute to a positive impact on the waste crisis. For more information please contact:

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