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Studying during Coronavirus: St Fergal’s student on prepping for state exams in a pandemic

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 Tuesday May 5 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. And on Friday April 10, it was announced that the schools would remain closed ‘until further notice’.

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.

While on April 10, it was confirmed the Leaving Cert exams set to take place in June have been postponed. They are now rescheduled for late July or early August – while the Junior Cert is off altogether.

The deadline for submission of Leaving Certificate practical and other projects, in subjects such has History, Geography, Art, PE and Construction, has also been rescheduled to either late July or early August.

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 DelaneyScoil 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, Knockbeg’s Ross Bolger, Clonaslee College’s Eva Hyland, Portlaoise CBS’ Thómas Dunne, Scoil Chriost Ri’s Grace O’Brien, Mountrath CS’ Ellen Timmons, Portlaoise College’s Igot Stankiewicz, Knockbeg’s Conor Donlon and Heywood’s Lauren O’Reilly-Phelan.

Next up, it is Ballaghmore native and St Fergal’s Rathdowney student Robert Phelan.

1 – What is your daily routine at the moment?

My routine is I get up at 7am and help my father with the jobs on the farm. I then go and start study around 9.30am and continue until 12.30pm.

I then take an hour break and then study from 1.30pm to 4.30pm before finishing up for the day.

2- What supports have your school provided for you and have they been useful?

They’ve set up e-mails in which we can get in contact with the teachers through outlook.

It’s a very good service to get in contact with the teachers and it means that they are able to get in contact us and give us feedback on work that we do.

3 – Are you getting out for much exercise?

I tend to get out in the morning and do the jobs on farm.

I also try to go for a run every evening to keep the fitness up for hopefully when the GAA season returns – which I hope will be soon.

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 believe that it was a great help to scrap the oral/practical as it took a great lot of pressure off for those who were worried about the orals/practicals.

They now have a full marks and it helps student to focus on studying for the other subjects and also focus on the theory side of the subjects. Also, people who were worried about passing Irish now have it fully passed which helps them to maybe get the mark they might need to get into the course they want.

5 – Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to study for the exams as now the date has been pushed out to late July or early August?

I think it will be a lot more difficult to motivate ourselves now especially when we are going to have to keep studying during our summer holidays.

It will be even more difficult on our mental health in trying to keep up the motivation especially when the weather is nice outside

6 – Are you able to interact with your friends? And if so, how are you doing this?

It’s very hard not to be able to talk to our friends in person but we are lucky enough to have things such as Snapchat and WhatsApp which means we are able to be in contact with our friends on a regular basis.

This is good as it’s difficult at this time to contact be in contact with our friends the way we would be in school. I can’t wait for this pandemic to be over and the quarantine to be lifted so I can meet up with the lads again.

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?

I know young people are being portrayed in a bad point of view but we are finding it extremely difficult along with all the people of all ages.

However, this is not reflective of all of us as we are all listening to the guidelines given by the HSE as we all are trying to practice them in order for them to get rid of this quarantine in order for us to back to our lives the way they were before the pandemic happened.

8 – If the Coronavirus crisis continues and you can’t sit your exams in late July or early August, do you think they should be postponed further or be cancelled altogether?

If the exams are cancelled in July or August, I believe the Leaving should be cancelled altogether or maybe try and sort out an online system so we can complete it as there is no point putting it off any longer as you will be running into the next academic year.

9 – Anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank all the people on the front line who have put in an effort to try and slow down the spread of the Coronavirus and also trying to cure the people that already have it.

SEE ALSO – Feargus Dunne: ‘It’s true what they say. Those small moments are the big moments.’