Coronavirus: 'We are living a GCSE history question'

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

empty classroomImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Classrooms across the UK are empty

"We’re currently living in a GCSE history question.

"It’s not the fact I haven’t seen my friends, but the thought that I won’t see them for another few months."

Rhianna McKenna is a 14-year-old pupil at St Dominic's Girls Grammar in west Belfast.

Just a few short weeks ago, she was juggling school work and her social life, like many pupils of her age.

Now her school is closed and she is staying at home away from friends and teachers.

She is missing them, her lessons and her schoolwork more than she thought she would.

But she has been writing about her experiences, trying to make sense of the new situation she - along with school pupils in many countries - finds herself in.

Rhianna has shared her experience with her teachers and with BBC News NI.

"The realisation that everything has changed begins first thing in the morning," she wrote.

"As I lie in bed trying to wake myself up, I think about what we would be doing in school at this moment if we were there.

"It seems like I haven’t stepped foot in that building in months, even though it’s only been a week.

Image source, PACEMAKER
Image caption,
Rhianna is a pupil at St Dominic's Girls Grammar

'I want my life back'

"As I eat my breakfast I scroll through Instagram and see about 1,000 posts about how we’re currently living in a GCSE history question.

"I just want to be out of the question and back to my normal life.

"This is my biggest struggle, especially since my best friend doesn’t have a phone, so we rely on school a lot to be able to talk and see each other.

"At the beginning, when everyone was saying how excited they were about being off, I always said I didn’t want to and I would hate it."

Rhianna still has work to do that is set by her teachers online, but it is not the same as being in school.

"I go onto my school emails to see that I have a few new pieces of work and a tear-jerking paragraph from my Irish teacher telling us how much she will miss our class," she wrote.

"Although it can be hard to admit, I will miss all my teachers a lot, especially the ones who make the school day a lot easier.

"I know talking to them on Google Classroom just won’t be the same."

Keeping in touch

While Rhianna, like so many teenagers, keeps in touch with friends via social media and email, it is not the same as seeing them face-to-face.

"Éadaoin and I only get to speak for 30 minutes a day, over email, but it is my most favourite part of the day and what I look forward to every day," she said about contact with her best friend.

"We talk about everything that has happened since the previous day, surprisingly a lot, we tell each other about new songs or shows we have found and dread the moment one of us has to go for dinner, or to give someone else a go on the computer."

Rhianna said that her experience would make her more grateful to be at school.

But she knows that day may not come for a few months at least.

"Although I wished and prayed every night that all of this would clear up and we could continue with school and our life, here we are just over a week later in national lockdown and school cancelled until further notice, which we all know means September," she said.