Isabella Rocha – online schooling during COVID

Isabella Rocha, a Type 1 diabetes patient, and her parents, Ashleigh and Carlos, share their experience and reasoning for opting for online schooling and how they decided when the right time was to go back to school.

Isabella Rocha (15) lives in Johannesburg, Gauteng with her parents and sister. She is in grade 9 at Assumption Convent.

Isabella was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in October 2018. She was put on Apidra and Optusilin. The teenager explains, “At first, it was a bit of a blow as it was extremely unexpected. I was scared and had no idea what to expect. However, through the unconditional love and support from my wonderful friends and family, I’m as strong as I’ll ever be and grateful for where I am and where I started.”

Before the COVID pandemic, Isabella managed her diabetes well. “For the most part. Of course, there were ups and downs,” she explains.

As the news hit that people living with diabetes were high-risk, fear started to set in. “I was so scared to even go out to the shops, but things have thankfully died down and returned to some form of normal.”

Online schooling

Due to the outbreak of COVID last year, all lessons were moved online. Ashleigh explains, “It was a bit of an adjustment at first. However, with time it did get easier. The schools were eventually allowed to return mid-June 2020. Though my husband and I were still unsure and a bit uncomfortable with sending her back during such a peak period in the virus. So, we sat down with her and discussed the option of continuing online and she was totally on board and aware of the risks involved of contracting the virus and having Type 1 diabetes. Her school was also super supportive.”

Ashleigh says that they got through online schooling by sticking together as a family. Fortunately, I could stay at home with our children and support them during the lockdown periods and online schooling. It’s been tough at times, especially with no social interaction with friends and teachers.”

When asked what the pros and cons of online schooling is, Isabella says, “The freedom I had at home. I didn’t need to wear a uniform or raise my hand to speak. It was also a bonus that I could stay in bed and sleep in. However, nothing can make up for not seeing anyone or going outside for recreational purposes.”

Back to school

In September 2020, when the positive cases started dropping my husband and I discussed Isabella going back to school with her endocrinologist and he agreed that if her blood glucose was in good control he saw no reason why she couldn’t go back to school.

Isabella was so excited to go back and see her friends. “I was dying to see my friends at school. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hug anyone or come in close contact, but it was better than not being able to see them at all.”

Constant worry as parents

Isabella’s parents say they worried tremendously during the first lockdown about their daughter, and still do. “In the beginning, we were quite paranoid about going anywhere and would sanitise absolutely everything and everyone. We questioned going back to school a million times. Through online research and speaking to her doctor, we realised that she was perfectly healthy and had good control of her blood glucose which put our minds at ease. Her school has also been fantastic in the sense of maintaining strict COVID protocols so we know she would be safe.

Growth and reflection

Isabella sees the year 2020 as a weird one. “There was always something going on in the world: good and bad. Of course, COVID added to this. Many times, I wished that we could return to the normal ways of life and go outside without masks, but I believe everything happens for a reason, including this.”

Ashleigh and Carlos can only be proud of how their daughter handled such a tricky school year. They say, “Isabella has such a positive attitude to life and always tries to see the good in everything so doing school online came with few obstacles and difficulties. She managed the process beautifully. There were days when frustration would rear its ugly head with technology difficulties and load shedding.”

“Isabella couldn’t wait to get back to school and we also noticed a slight increase in her blood glucose readings due to stress and lack of activity, being home in front of the computer all day. But we tried our best to manage it and would walk as much as we could and just kept an extra close eye on her numbers and would treat as needed.”

Isabella with her parents, Ashleigh and Carlos and sister, Sienna.
Isabella with her parents, Ashleigh and Carlos, and sister, Sienna.
Isabella showing her Continuous Glucose Monitoring patch.
Isabella showing her Continuous Glucose Monitoring patch.


Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on [email protected]