The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on students studying at the University of the South Pacific’s distance and flexible learning centre (DFL).

The USP DFL centre enrolls close to 7,000 students annually - in courses that range from preliminary studies to post graduate studies. Many of the students are based in Honiara, but there are some based in the provinces.

McDonald, or Mac as he prefers to be called, is one such student, based in Honiara he has been doing studies at the USP DFL centre for four years now.

Mac is doing his undergraduate degree in public administration and management. He needs to complete 28 units to graduate. So far, he has completed 12 units and is currently enrolled in 2 units this semester.

Mac says that DFL studies is already challenging as it is, one needs to be extra motivated as most of the courses are designed for distance learning – so not many face to face lectures, group assignments, class presentations and the likes.

The USP DFL centre recently imposed restrictions in response to COVID-19. This has affected Mac and many others as they adjust to the new measures and guidelines.

"Social distancing and limiting night studies has been imposed as a precaution, so for some of us who rely on school computers and other resources we just have to adjust and it has been tough.

“I had to withdraw from one of my units and focus on just two so I can proceed and cope with the new measures,” Mac said.

Mac says his number one supporter is his father, not only does he pay for all his school fees, he also encourages him daily to never backdown or give up.

"I am so fortunate to have such a dad who really supports me with my studies. I know he must make sacrifices for me, as he is only a primary school teacher with six other children to support.

"I miss them, as all of them are back home in Temotu province, but I talk to them when I can,” Mac said.

Mac says he always try to stay positive, so he also spends time volunteering with NGOs and other interest groups. This helps him stay on track and remain motivated - interreacting with like minded youths and having mentors through such work has been helpful.

“We must face this virus and not use it as an excuse, that is what I tell myself when things get tough.”