My Covid education: South Auckland school's deputy head boy says teachers a 'blessing' through pandemic

As NCEA examinations continue around the country, it signals the beginning of the end of an eventful year for many. But, for some students, they say the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges their communities were already facing. 1 NEWS spoke to three Auckland students as they look back on 2020.

Elijah Tiatia. Source: Supplied

Elijah Tiatia says he wouldn’t know where he’d be with his studies if it weren’t for his teachers’ support. 

“Throughout Covid, teachers were part of our number one support group,” the Year 13 deputy head boy of Ōtara’s Tangaroa College said. 

“It was such a blessing for us students to see that our teachers were willing to adapt for us. You know, they had to learn how to use Google Meet on the fly, and they adapted pretty quick.”

One other silver lining of the pandemic was that it showed how resilient young people were, and how willing they were to band together for others, Tiatia said. 

In the midst of his studies during the lockdown, Tiatia was at the coalface of the Covid-19 response in Ōtara. Alongside the Community Builders NZ Trust, he delivered packages to the elderly in the community who couldn’t leave their homes during the Covid-19 lockdown. 

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“Seeing them by themselves, hearing their stories … that was very emotional for me delivering those packages,” he said.

“As youth, we need to try our best to support our elderly for as long as we can so we can give that example for the people who come after us.”

Tiatia is on his way to completing NCEA Level 3 in accounting, English, business studies, music and history. He said he was looking forward to studying law at AUT next year. 

He said his preparation for exams this year weren’t too badly affected by the pandemic. 

“It was more internal assessments, completing those in this half of the year because of Covid, that was pretty challenging for me.”

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The latest adjustments are in recognition of the city’s recent Level 3 lockdown. Source: 1 NEWS

Tiatia said he was also thankful for the extra support the Government offered NCEA students this year. The Ministry of Education implemented a number of changes intended to assist students through the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year. These included delaying the start of NCEA exams by 10 days, awarding additional “learning recognition credits” and providing internet access and laptops. 

It was comforting to think that everyone was going through challenges together, Tiatia said. 

“Everyone's different, especially when we are in a lower decile area,” he said of Tangaroa College’s decile rating of one.

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“Everyone has different things that they go through. They take different things on board.

“I’m fortunate I didn’t have to hustle … but in terms of my peers, I know that they struggled.

“My mates still had heaps of responsibilities to try and take care of at home. Some of my mates even had to drop out of school to go and work.”

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While Tiatia applauded students who worked to support their families during the Covid-19 lockdown, he said “it’s not fair at all” that some sacrificed their education and didn’t return to school afterward out of their love for their families. 

“But it’s something that can change.”