Grade 12's need a sustained care and support programme alongside their hectic academic schedule.

Sasha and her friends celebrating the fact that they have survived the traumatic Grade 12 year.

No Grade 12 class should be without a deep care and support programme for the duration of their final school year.  The Grade 12s need a sustained programme that focuses on their well-being alongside their hectic academic schedule. Their emotional state can often help them achieve or hinder them from being successful in their final NSC examination.

Grade 12 is the most vulnerable group in the system.

Grade 12 students are probably the most vulnerable group in education, in terms of the high levels of stressors that they are subjected to.  The Grade 12's are in the systems pressure cooker from the day they set foot in their Grade 12 class. Suddenly they are placed in the spotlight by the media and the public. They now have to prove to the nation that they are worthy of the Grade 12 certificate.

These students have to contend with an academic year that is shorter and three huge examinations - two internal term examinations and then the big nutcracker, the NSC finals that start early October. Many students already have challenges studying at their broken, cramped homes in noisy environments. Added to this mix would be the students'  fears of not realizing their own dreams and the fear of disappointing their parents, teachers, friends and the school. Who wouldn't feel paralyzed by this overwhelming pressure?

We know too, that the school leadership and Grade 12 teachers often experience similar paralysis because the school is judged by their school's performance in the external Grade 12 results. Context is forgotten and results are the yardstick.  Many schools succumb to such pressure and ironically, they transfer their anxiety to the very students who need their teachers'  emotional support.

Schools are the only oasis for many students.

As unfair as it may seem, schools are really the only constant in the students' lives.  School is their oasis, their happy place. While there is an outcry against parents who shirk their responsibilities and the apathy that students display, schools cannot ignore the fact that they the children's only hope to be successful. The heavy task that is placed on teachers to be the motivators, the comforters and the spiritual support peaks when students reach Grade 12. These students have nobody else. These young adults may engage in adult activities, be rebellious or show no interest, but deep down they are probably at their most vulnerable. Young people want to be reassured that they matter.

Therefore, the well-being of Grade 12 students have to be actively nurtured. The school leadership and the teachers should ask themselves constantly: "How can we help our Grade 12's manage the stresses they experience so that they can learn better"?

Schools run amazing programmes to help their Grade 12's cope with the mounting pressures during the year.  Below are a few ideas that are working for schools.

Practical Strategies to help raise the well-being of Grade 12 students

Assist  students with study programmes away from their homes.

Study sessions that allow for quiet, individual study and interactive group learning are run after school. These sessions may be held immediately after school or at night. Masiphumelele High school that is situated in an informal settlement, arranges for study sessions at night. The teachers or community members supervise these sessions.

Demystify the examination ecosystem.

Give students as much information about the examination process as possible.

It is important that schools mediate the information with their students. Giving them hard copies or links to websites should be accompanied by formal mediation or plenary sessions of this information. The idea is not to increase their stress by expecting them to familiarize themselves with information or surf the internet if they do not have sufficient experience or exposure. Guidance is the operative word.

For example, give the students access to the final October/November timetable that is available. Let them work through past papers and memoranda and  allow them to see how their peers who have passed Grade 12, have utilized the resources and their time.

If students have unlimited access to such examination preparation resources, they will feel more in control and their stress levels will drop.

As a past external Grade 12 marker, I could clearly distinguish between those schools where students were prepared well in examination processes and techniques and those schools where learners were probably not coached in a structured fashion.  Show students the format of the papers and all other technicalities. These aspects should be automated so that the students can concentrate on the quality of their responses.

The WCED website has a Matric Support portal that is a good resource for the students and their teachers.
Go to to access this portal
There is a good Reading Strategies graphic that can be applied to all content areas on the Te@ch Thought website. Think of ways to use this graphic as part of a study skills programme.

  This website, Te@ch thought is one of the best sites I have found on the internet. School heads and teachers will probably make this website one of their favourite or "go-to" websites.

Build an intensive motivational programme to augment the formal teaching and learning.

Most schools organize motivational sessions for the learners, but these sessions will have greater impact if they are part of a sustained programme throughout the year. The students can also help to design a motivational series that could be used by the other grades as well. Many schools run matric camps and invite speakers to address various topics.

Other meaningful inspirational activities that can be explored are deep breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, counseling and fun, team building activities.  Such a program requires planning so that it does not become an additional burden for teachers who are already overworked.

I am sure there are many tried and tested strategies out there. The main objective is to make the Grade 12 students feel a deep sense that their school cares for them. If they know that others are supportive and working hard to help them,  they can concentrate on learning and then demonstrate their ability in their examinations. This is what we want, isn't it?

Do you have ideas on how to develop a care and support programme for schools?


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