Observatory: Lockdown breeds hopelessness among northerners

Clementine Tjameya

Amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, families are forced to be together in their homesteads, with nothing to do but stare at each other and grow tired of each other’s company. It is tough. Parents in the north are complaining about what to do with bored, troublesome younger family members.

Everything about social distancing goes against our nature as human beings. We are social beings. We need each other and the community at large in order to function well. Community co-dependency is not that noticeable in the cities because everyone is within their high wall fences and watching television or doing something else. It is different in the north. Most houses have open homesteads. Most times people go to their neighbors’ houses to borrow essentials like salt, cooking oil and onions.

I called my mom to ask her how they are coping back in Rundu, and the first thing she could say was that nothing is the same anymore. There is no sound of happy kids singing and dancing in playgrounds, bars exploding with music and drunkards embarrassing themselves as they walk in footpaths.

“The bar next door is so quiet. Nothing seems familiar anymore. Streets are deserted and there is this deafening silence in the air because we are used to hearing happy sounds of kids playing in the streets before dark. The last that I heard, there was a group of kids that was beaten by the police because they were found playing in the streets. No kids have been out in the streets ever since.”

Rundu is generally a busy and lively town, but since lockdown it had become overwhelmed with panic. People are trapped in the confines of their homes in fear of COVID-19.

The elderly are miserable and hopeless, and ready to meet their fate if they contact the virus. My granny is always saying that she is ready for whateve comes. She heard the news about how the elderly are more likely to die from the virus and this totally threw her off.

“I am having a little flu, my child. I think my time is near, I am just waiting for coronavirus to come finish me. I want to go home.”

She is not allowed to see her friends anymore and according to her it’s just a slow death.

When asked about their views of the education ministry’s decision for online learning, my parents barely think this will be an effective method. My father is a teacher at Nkurenkuru Combined School, which is in Kavango West.

“I honestly don’t think the online classes will be helpful to everyone, especially where I am teaching. There are about 60 to 70 learners in every classroom, and ninety percent of them do not have phones and are not computer literate. If online classes will really go on then those learners are greatly disadvantaged. I think the online classes will work for people in the city and other fully developed towns. Nkurenkuru only became a town a few years ago. People there are not at all that advanced technologically.”

Knowing Rundu and Nkurenkuru very well, I know that the introduction of online classes is like setting these towns up for failure. People over there barely have electricity regularly, let alone own computers. Even if the ministry was going to make provisions of computers like it said it would (and I doubt this highly), it may be of no use because people do not know how to use them or manage the software (which is probably only in English!)

The whole point of online classes is that more parents could be actively involved in the teaching and learning process. Little children who are in primary school will need their parents’ help with these ‘online classes’. But, what if parents are not literate or have never seen, touched or worked with a computer before?

There are a lot of schools on the outskirts of Rundu where learners are being taught under trees. Many parents there are not acquainted with the importance of education. How can we be sure that they will know how to use technical gadgets for online schooling when they aren’t active in regular schooling? This is why most people, especially in the northern parts of the country have concluded that the government is not considering villages (where most Namibians live) in their decision making to start online classes.

The whole country is in a lot of panic. It’s a lot better in the city as people have internet access and can spend days surfing the internet or watching things on Netflix. Life in the northern regions is limited to long days of shouting and yelling at naughty children and evenings of stories around fires. My mom says this latter point is the only thing she likes more about this lockdown. Other than that, all else is just bad.

Businesses have closed down. She also has a small market where she used to sell fat cakes, fish and snacks. It is greatly affected by the lockdown. Things are about to hit rock bottom and everyone is filled with an uncertainty and dread of what tomorrow will bring.

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