The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting almost every aspect of our lives at the moment.
Bar those working in essential services, the rest of the population is off work and instructed to stay in their homes for the majority of the time until Easter Sunday April 12 at the earliest.
While around 120,000 Irish Leaving and Junior Cert students have seen their lives turned upside down in the last month.
Those set to sit the Leaving Cert, about 55,000 of them, have been particularly inconvenienced as the one set of exams they have spent the past five or six years preparing for are now in jeopardy.
They have been out of the school setting since March 13 after they were closed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
On March 19, the Department of Education announced that Leaving Cert and Junior Cert orals and practical exams were cancelled and all students would be awarded full marks.
However, with the written state exams just over two months away, the Department have been silent on what contingency plans, if any, are in place should they not be able to begin on June 3.
All the time, students have been taken out of the routine that they have been used to for the past five or six years just moths before the all important exams.
So, we decided to reach out to the schools in Laois and ask those getting ready to sit Leaving and Junior Cert exams how they are getting on.
What their routine now is, how their school are trying to help them and whether they believe the exams should be postponed or done online if they cannot proceed on the scheduled date.
So far we have heard from Portlaoise CBS’ Eamonn Delaney, Scoil Chriost Ri’s Kate Corrigan, Mountrath CS’ Seth Burns Mooney, Colaiste Iosagain’s Emma Dunne, St Fergal’s Niall Coss, Portlaoise College’s Lauren Mills,Heywood’s Dervla McDonagh and Knockbeg’s Ross Bolger.
Up next is Clonaslee College and Rosenallis native Eva Hyland.
1 – Where are you from and what is your daily routine at the moment?
I’m from Rosenallis but I’m doing my Leaving Cert in Clonaslee College. At the minute my daily routine is just school work and self-isolation.
2- What supports have your school provided for you and have they been useful?
We’re using an online school service, which is easy enough to use and there has been a lot of contact between students and teachers.
The work load is a lot and it can be hard to keep track of the assignments due, we have to do a good bit every day.
3 – Are you getting out for much exercise?
I’ve been getting out everyday, but it is hard to get the time, even if I can get out for 20 minutes to puck a ball, the break definitely helps.
4 – How do you feel about the decision to scrap the oral/practical elements of some subjects and give everyone 100% across the board?
I was gutted, I study Irish and French and felt prepared for the orals, I put a lot of work in and now it seems like wasted time. Oral work is some people’s strongest area, and now everything rests on the paper, which is tough especially when the marks were just handed to everyone.
In my opinion, if they were going to scrap the orals they should have scrapped the marks as well. Leave everyone with 0% going in and make the paper worth 100%. That way every mark is earned.
5 – Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to study for the exams as it is unclear if the exams will even go ahead as currently scheduled?
Definitely, the unknown is what’s making everything so hard.
If we had a definite timeframe and a secure date to work towards, I think motivation would come along with that.
6 – Are you able to interact with your friends? And if so, how are you doing this?
Yeah, we’re all in contact over social media, but it’s not the same as being together in a school environment.
Aside from all the stress, we have so much craic in school together and that’s definitely what I miss the most. It’s sad that we might not get a graduation or a yearbook.
7 – How do feel young people are being portrayed in the media at the moment? They are being blamed a lot for ignoring social distancing guidelines. Do you believe this is a fair criticism?
100% fair. Although I do think the message is sinking in now. When the schools closed, so many young people acted ignorantly and selfishly, thinking that they were somehow immune.
It was really frustrating to see that happen. But as the number of cases grow, more young people start to take things seriously.
8 – If the Coronavirus crisis continues and you can’t sit your exams in June, do you think they should be postponed or should exams be facilitated online?
Honestly, I don’t know what I want to happen, I don’t think any outcome will satisfy everyone. There are pros and cons to every situation. If they’re done online, cheating can’t be monitored.
If they’re postponed, the college process is effected. If we go off of past results, all the work we’ve done since the mocks doesn’t get taken into account. It’s tough, I don’t envy the people who have to make that call.