Leaving Certificate Under Lockdown

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Today is a better day, with the roof of my home intact and my family and I bundled up inside; in an effort to comply with the rules handed down to fight against the invisible ‘enemy’, whose name is Covid-19. Regardless, this is what the government is telling me. That and I’m doing my Leaving Cert ‘by hook or by crook’ or whatever that means.

I completed my Junior Cert while I was in emergency accommodation, but I wonder how I would feel now if I was still cramped up in that small space, in that one room, with my two brothers, two sisters and my mum. I wonder how I would cope studying on the floor, with a greater amount of books and a larger family of ants.

I wonder if I would have more fear, as the mice roamed around on the floor chewing up my exam papers.

I wonder how it would feel? I know my faith in God would not wane. If He could get me through it once he could do so ten times over. But I hope the system will have changed in my favour and the thousands of other kids living in a modern type of poverty.

Would the government still impose the stress of exams if they knew what it was like to be me?

I’m living in an inequality that’s hidden, along the airport road. Maybe I’d have to go outside for food ten times more than everyone else because there was never any room in the B&B mini fridge.

I was constantly breathing in the air of misery.  I need a mask for that too, just as much as I need one for the sickness looming over us.

Before it was cigarette smoke, canned meatballs and now it’s respiratory droplets of a virus that could kill me.

Or how would I feel if my dad was abusing me, like the girls from the family next door were subjected to. It didn’t take long. I think it was just two weeks and it didn’t take a goodbye either.

One day they just left and took a piece of my heart with them too.

What about these circumstances? Is ‘by hook or by crook’ worth these circumstances?

What if I had to take care of my little ones? While my mom goes outside to try and bring a little money in. If she had lost her job because of the pandemic. Now our only source of sustenance was gone. Then we would be relying on the government even more than what we were doing before. What do you call that? Resting on the government? Relaxing on the government? Maybe even sleeping on the government because of the sheer amount of people whose lives were turned upside down because of it. As if living life sideways was any easier.

500,000 people lost their jobs.

With the threat of being kicked out looming over them. How many kids can cope studying on the floor of a dirty B&B? How many students can cope tasting modern poverty while the weight of a global pandemic is weighing on their shoulders. My brothers would sit on the floor next to door to get a secure connection so they could complete their assignments for university. I would sit on the window sill trying to refresh the Edmodo page. Seeing if I can get a good grade on all the work I’ve been missing.

I wonder what I would say if this was still me?

I would be fighting even harder for the government to understand that the Leaving Cert was never a friend to me. They should understand that they’re adding more stress to me and that I’m already feeling the pressure of this pandemic on top of me. Government: why don’t you listen to us and be a little more considerate? You should just go ahead and cancel the Leaving Certificate.

In whatever happens I know that God loves me and that he’s the only one that really truly knows what’s best for me. So even in this uncertainty, I will praise God with my everything.

So this what I would say if it was still me, studying on the floor of a B&B.

Illustration by Malina Molenda/Artsyfartsy for Cassandra Voices

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