The COVID Journey : Changes in RI and beyond

The end of 2021 has arrived and everyone seems relieved for it. 2021 has been a hectic and busy year, full of changes and surprises. While we are gearing up for the year to come, it is timely to look back and reflect on the past year and all the strange and wonderful things that have occurred as well as some of the less palatable incidents.

These past two years are special, not just because of incidents within Raffles. COVID-19 has caused great changes and many have had silver linings. To appreciate them, we at RPubs have compiled the most telling events from the past year to remind us of how things have truly changed due to Covid-19, for better or for worse.

January 2021: An unusual orientation         

In 2020, the last batch of students so far to have a so-called ‘normal’ orientation was admitted. The orientation camp, sleepovers and Raffles Trail were all held in accordance with how it always has been: with great camaraderie and grandeur.

However, this year, the new batch of students had a most unusual welcome: the orientation camp was broken up into a few days, there was no sleepover and the Raffles Trail was held in class. This unique entrance however had the same effect: Introducing the Year 1s to the Rafflesian Spirit.

The new Year 1s experienced a more subdued version of our usual Raffles Trail

February-April 2021: The most ‘normal’

For a few months, at least, ‘normal’ seemed to have returned. Covid cases were dipping, and school was in full swing. Many restrictions were lifted and CCAs were having a great time readjusting their members to face-to-face CCA after a year of online CCA sessions. Sport CCAs too were getting back to work and the National School Games remained a possibility.  WA1 tasks were released and for a brief while, everyone almost seemed to forget about Covid and the negative atmosphere in general. All that was about to change though.

Spirits ran high during the Lunar New Year celebrations in class

May 2021: Sound the alarms!

Minister for Transport Mr Ong Ye Kung announced that a new, more virulent strain of the virus had “broken through the defences” of Changi Airport. This signalled a new wave of Covid-19 cases all around Singapore and a new set of defensive measures being put in place. 

HBL was announced for all students, which was a dread to some but a relief to many. It was even more of a relief for some classes when their WA2s were cancelled! Despite this, the teachers kept working hard to ensure that our academic learning stayed afloat through the HBL period. 

June 2021: Calm before the storm

June was a rather dull holiday month this year as eat-in dining was restricted and many of us had to stay home the whole month. However, we still made do with the holidays and enjoyed ourselves as best as we can. 

Vaccination too began for students throughout Singapore, especially those with upcoming national examinations. This allowed Singapore to begin preparing for her reopening and recovery.

However, little did we know that a series of rather unpleasant and disturbing incidents would follow the next month. 

July 2021: The storm strikes

HBL continued a couple days until July the first, when Secondary 1 and 2 students returned to RI. The first issue that presented itself was very clearly the positive testing of a canteen assistant in RI for Covid-19 on 17th July. Our canteen was shut down and students were told to stay home until Wednesday, the 21st of July, for disinfection and cleaning of the canteen as well as arranging catering for when school was back in session in the following days.

It was on 19th July that tragedy struck the nation. A murder occurred at River Valley High School, prompting nationwide grieving and a renewed focus on mental health. Schools began trying to provide support to students as the alleged murderer had a previous history of mental health issues that might have contributed to his terrible act.

While this weighed heavily on everyone’s minds, it is certain that many students in RI were not solely affected by this. Due to the canteen shutdown, most had to make do with catered food. This was the greatest trouble many had, as the food was often rather dry and sometimes even not hygienically prepared. Quite a few stomachs were victims of this.

This strongly heightened the realisation that we missed the canteen vendors and many began appreciating them more. The vendors in quarantine received many online well-wishes and returned to find many thank-you cards next to their stalls. Covid may have dampened some spirits, but certainly not the spirit of giving (is it too early for Christmas?)

Image credits: RI Corporate Communications and Advancement Office

August-September 2021: Adapting 

The school exams were approaching, daunting many students. Of greater concern was that the next exams were oft performance-related, meaning that Covid-19’s effects were going to be felt even more acutely. However, we still adapted and even advanced.

Drama challenge – the act put up by my class 2G

The Year 2s Drama Challenge, for example, was held in the classrooms this year. Despite that, they still put up great performances and worked around the social distancing restrictions enforced.

One very notable change that truly required adapting to was the introduction of the PLDs (Personal Learning Devices) into our lives in the classroom. These devices opened doors that permitted us to take our learning a step further, and are especially useful in our current world controlled so much by Covid.

October 2021: A pensive end

The exams began and ended without incident this month, allowing everyone to breathe a sigh of relief and brood over their results. The Covid situation was tiring enough on its own, not to mention the endless examinations that we had to handle.

The final assembly was extra special to our graduating Y4 seniors

2021 has finally drawn to a close.

Fortunately, we have overcome and survived another year of Covid-19. The holidays are upon us, and perhaps a host of new experiences. 

Hopefully, next year things will be better.

All images in this article were shot by the Raffles Photography and Art Club unless otherwise credited.

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I like animals and poetry, but food is above all priorities