A bright young UCT student from Krugersdorp shares her perspective on studies, life and embracing the future of work through online learning. Education 26 is a game changer for Gen Zs 27 Gabriella Gitari is a bright 19-year-old from Krugersdorp who studies Psychology at the University of Cape Town.
She is part of Gen Z and the so-called “lost generation” who began their studies during the pandemic. But Gitari is far from lost – having matriculated from a leading online high school prior to lockdown, she was among the first in the country to embrace online schooling which has benefitted her greatly – particularly in her effortless transition to online university and the world of work one day.
Gitari started out at a regular brick and mortar high school in Krugersdorp, but being a highly motivated student who didn’t enjoy distractions, such as being shuffled from class to class or having to do compulsory extramurals, she switched to Teneo Online School before her Matric year in 2020 to focus on her studies. “I moved to Teneo because it felt more like university or college lectures, and although the classes are live, they are also recorded. You can decide how much time you need to spend on each subject and how you want to organise your week.
You have the freedom to decide if you want to do extramurals or not. I could focus on doing well, and by Friday I was done with my tasks, so I could enjoy my weekends as well,” she explains. The switch paid off: her marks improved drastically and she was accepted to study Psychology at the University of Cape Town. It’s you versus yourself. The switch to online exams was one of the biggest plusses of online schooling. “I liked taking exams in normal school, but at Teneo Online School you can do it without anxiety.
You just wake up, prep, and sit at your desk for the exam. At regular school you have so many other stress factors such as getting dressed and getting to school on time, and those exam halls are always so cold, but they don’t let you bring a blanket. “You also feel pressure when you see everyone else is done, and I was never done first because I’m a thorough person. Online school is different: it teaches you it’s you versus yourself. You don’t have to compare yourself to others,” Gitari says.
While the past two years have left many South African students feeling lost and anxious, Gitari says her early start with online school has helped her transition effortlessly to a university with a hybrid online-offline setup, and even taught her a few important life skills. “Online schooling makes you more open to learning and relating to others. You become more confident, open, forthcoming, and less judgmental. Everyone is equal.
It carries over to your real-life friendships. “Online school also teaches you to become self-motivated and to become really good at managing your own time. Being at UCT now, I have noticed some of my friends who come from regular high schools struggling with time management, because nobody checks up on you anymore – you need self-discipline.
At Teneo Online School, I learnt how to prioritise – I could give more hours to tasks I struggled with. The flexibility is so nice.” Useful tools for life Crucially, the live classes and online schooling also gave her the headspace to really find herself and work out what she wanted to do with her life. “Yes, we did miss out on certain things in the lockdown, but it was also a blessing in disguise, because it gave us the chance to figure out our abilities and what we wanted to do with our lives – it gave us direction and that makes us excited for our 20s and the rest of our lives.” The emotional transition was a benefit, but so was the very practical side of studying.
Her school ‘digitised’ her in other ways and she was encouraged to make use of numerous handy apps which Gitari still uses to this day and is now sharing with her university friends to help them get into the swing of things. “I was more ready than my classmates, so I’ve been teaching them how to use Zoom, Teams, the Notion note-taking app, Anki Cards, which are online flash cards, and Google Calendar.”
Gen Z and the fourth industrial revolution Looking at it all through the lens of organisational psychology – a subject she enjoys – Gitari sees how online education is priming her generation for the real future of work in the fourth industrial revolution era. Gitari and her peers will build their careers in a time when humans need to work with technology.
“Everything is so digital and connected now; we’ll never fully go back to an offline economy. We need to be more comfortable with digital systems and technology, because it opens up so many opportunities,” she says. Gitari, who dreams of becoming a psychologist, realises her future clientele can be anywhere, and she has more global career opportunities she can explore online.
Mental health services are becoming more and more available online and on social media, and are reaching people in innovative new ways. “The pandemic has really shown us how the world is changing and has given young people a more interesting perspective of the future. The world is digital and the sooner we get used to it, the better,” she concludes.