The below is a guest blog by Ameya, a QFCC Youth Champion

School was oddly quiet that day. The once lively campus was empty, with some classes only having a quarter of the number of students. Everywhere you went, the words could be heard. Corona virus. Lockdown. In quiet whispers or panicked shouts.  It was a fact that loomed over everyone’s heads and none of us knew what to do. After this day, we would all be in lockdown during a global pandemic. Life as we knew it was changing, and some of us didn’t know how to cope. Despite this, students tried to make the most of a somewhat normal school day, giving their friends what would be their last hug in a long time and making the most of extra-curricular activities or clubs that wouldn’t be able to run online.

Since that day, a lot has changed. Not just with schooling, but with things as small as doing the groceries or trying to find your first job. Several of my friends who work, mainly at cash registers at places such as grocery stores or fast food outlets could tell you at least one story about customers mistreating them. They have come home in tears after putting up with hours of abuse and angry customers, most of them forgetting that those serving them are also people. Several of them have been mistreated because of something they cannot help or change. Some of them have even had to witness violent brawls over essential items such as pasta and toilet paper while doing their shifts. Many of the essential workers stocking shelves, cooking or checking out items are at risk on a daily basis are young people in high school.  Yet at such a young age they have to deal with such abuse while being at risk, all while being stereotyped as “lazy teenagers who never work”.

On the other hand, many people are losing jobs and unable to work during the pandemic. During lockdown I have been trying to gain employment, however due to the impacts of covid, no jobs are available in my area. Several peers have lost jobs that were helping them save for university or other opportunities. The virus has impacted both people with work and without and it hasn’t always necessarily been a change for the better.

Another change during the pandemic has been school life. Many have assumed that online school has been easy. Adults have told me almost daily how lucky I am and how much I should love sleeping in. But during this time at home in isolation the amount of work set has actually increased. As we are in isolation, the effects of being alone have truly been felt. During this time alone, the concept of time has been lost and it makes being determined to work much more difficult. Without being able to connect with the school community in person, classes are oddly quiet online. Learning, especially in subjects that you find more challenging, has been made to feel to be almost impossible as you watch tutorial after tutorial online and work through worksheet after worksheet. Everyone has handled the situation differently, however I longed for the day for physical school occur again.

Many challenges have arisen during this time, some of which have significantly impacted how I receive my education. While most have assumed that online schooling is effective, efficient and easy, this isn’t always the case. Exams and assessments have been done online and work has been distributed via emails, one note and teams. However, internet issues or slow Wi-Fi has not only impacted my performance at school and ability to learn, but also impacted my peers around me. I am fortunate enough to generally have access to internet, but during the period of online schooling more questions were raised. What about families with only one laptop to share? What about the percentage of families in Queensland that don’t have access to internet? What about young people who are not safe at home and require face to face, personal counselling provided by the school or external organisations? There are several challenges and issues to be addressed during this trying time, however if we work together as a community, we can find ways to resolve and overcome these roadblocks.

It is important to recognise just how much young people, in particular school students, have been impacted during the pandemic. With everything that is happening in this rapidly changing world, it’s easy to overlook minors. But young people also have challenges they face during lockdown, whether it be dealing with stress and mental health or finding or losing employment. COVID-19 has impacted everyone in the Queensland community somehow. We cannot fail to acknowledge what school students in high school are going through as we grow up in this fast-paced world.