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Facing the high school finals at the time of the coronavirus

The thoughts of a high school student on a moment of his youth that will never return

Facing the high school finals at the time of the coronavirus The thoughts of a high school student on a moment of his youth that will never return

It's 8:00 on Thursday 7 May and I'm writing this article pretending it to be the first test of Italian of the maturity exam for the 2019/2020 school year. I do it because this year there will be no first test. This year, in fact, for us in the class of 2001 will be all different: no first test, no second test. There will be only the third, the oral one, that will unfold in ways that are still unknown to us. 

I have always seen the fifth year of high school as a period to be jealously guarded in one's memories - a period that, among other things, popular culture has turned into a piece of personal mythology, a very important threshold of which the finals are the rite of passage. A ritual celebrated and told by films, books and songs in what is a true epic  of the last year of high school, with all its meanings. All those meanings have been partially lost this year, we are all orphans of this collective experience that we will never live again. And even if there's an exam, the memory of the class of 2001 will be diametrically opposed to anyone else's. The simulations in the classroom, the last bell, the long hours of study and despair that precede the first two tests and then the night before the exams: all denied - or rather, hijacked - by a microorganism called Covid-19.

There will be 460,000 boys and girls who will take the National Tests this year. I hope that none of my peers have expressed the desire to miss them. I hope so because I believe that no one should never be denied the opportunity to face that rite of passage, symbolic of true maturity, which is almost a right - like the one to study that has kept us in the classrooms for so many years.

But the truth is that, since the coronavirus arrived in Italy, we have finished studying with dignity. Newspapers don't tire of repeating that video lessons have been able to replace classroom lessons, allowing pupils to complete the programme anyway, with Education Minister Azzolina calling distance learning a success. All consoling rhetoric, all easy optimism. How can we believe that distance learning works if it is promoted from one day to the next as an official teaching method without even having experienced it once? All of them, pupils and professors, found themselves chained to a poor and inadequate teaching system. Attending online lessons from your room, without personal interaction, of an hour or more every day is not only exhausting, but also uncomfortable and counterproductive. In situations like this, students should be stimulated and encouraged, not abandoned to a WiFi device to try to end a shabby school year. 

And we really reach the peak when we consider that, just over a month after the fateful 17 June, the official start of the examination, there is still no official information about how the oral test will take place. It looks like we're going to face her in class, but how? In this regard, the leaders and teachers of the various institutions also question the contours of this year's National Test. Meanwhile, nations such as England and the Netherlands, understanding the dramatic scenario in which we find ourselves, have long since cancelled their final exams, announcing that students will be evaluated with their course of study in mind.

In the midst of this general turmoil, we all also think about the future, because we have always been taught that maturity always seems very far away, but then comes and greets us in a heartbeat. And then it is right to imagine ourselves already projected into the future, who already at work, who at university. Today I am thinking of all those who will have to face an entrance exam in a few months and will not know how to behave. I also think of those who will immediately want to enter the world of work: how do you get into a blocked sector, such as catering, and who does not know how to start again because of the coronavirus? I read displeasure, indecision and concern on the face of me and my companions as they converse through a screen of what will come.

The thought then skips a generation, it goes to the class of 2002, to them and to those who after them I can face a serene maturity. I hope they can live it to the full, with its joys and fears, even for us unfortunate, which is the only adjective with which I can describe ourselves. I also think of the professors, who for five years held hands on a journey with a bitter ending, lost a few kilometers before the finish line. I think of the parents of all my peers, rightly concerned about the fate of their children.

In particular, however, I think of us youths, that this finals we have waited for, sighed and dreamed about, feared, and now we see it get out of hand. We did not deserve it to end like this - but we will be able to learn from a different lesson, a type of teaching that cannot be imparted at a distance and which will serve all our lives: not everything is given or predictable but difficulties strengthen the mind, as fatigue strengthens the body.