The price of not knowing why

Our educational system teaches students to ‘do’ but not to think. Beneficiaries of apartheid and colonialism loved this. Thinking people will quickly and easily perceive weaknesses and attack strategically. After independence, in most public schools, that same back-handed educational trend continued. The reason changed. The priority was increasing higher literacy statistics and ‘grades.’ The government did not want to slog up the hard road of educating teachers and teaching students critical thinking.

In this pandemic, we now pay the price for this.

We ask people to wear masks, but do not help them to understand why. That is the reason there are front-page photographs with a story applauding the fact that many people on urban streets are wearing masks. And yet, the subjects in the photograph are incorrectly wearing them. Their masks do not cover their noses. They are wearing masks and haven’t a clue about why.

The people wearing disposable masks have no idea that they must be thrown away after each use. In a week, masks, even with holes in them or which are filthy, will still be worn. People are removing their masks to talk to each other. Each mask must be made a specific way to have a chance of blocking infections. Do the plethora of tailors now churning out masks, have the quality of their products controlled and inspected BEFORE they are sold? People are ‘trying on’ masks before they buy from a street vendor. Do they know this will spread the infection?

Gone is the pressure to wash hands regularly, use hand sanitizers and maintain social distancing. The ‘mask’ is being treated as a silver bullet to prevent COVID-19 infection and that is not true. The ‘simple’ message is NOT the best one; but, it is the lazy one.

The Government promises a once-off grant of N$750 for ‘everyone’ who ‘qualifies’, while the coffers are empty. Nearly one million people applied. And more than half of those who qualified have received their money. Bravo to those processing applications. They are doing a tremendous job.

Does the government have the cash right now, without cutting other needed services to pay out the N$750 for all of those who qualify? Probably not. The piper will have to be paid somewhere down the line. Some program vital the public will be cut to finance the once-off N$750 payments.

There will be no donors to the rescue here; just dribs and drabs of money already in the pipeline before COVID struck. Those same development partners are busy burying hundreds of their own citizens each day. Namibia is not their priority.

Our economy has lost one-third of its value. Billions have been deducted from the national budget. Services already sporadically undelivered due to the drought and recession will be buried. The Ministry of Labour’s unsustainable efforts to ‘stop’ retrenchments has given false promises to tens of thousands whose jobs are already long gone. There will be an ugly price to pay when that reality hits the fan.

We say social spacing is a must, but we know it is antithetical to local customs. And yet we still demand it without explaining why it is necessary.

Our leaders hold parties while banning them for others. We have photos of Keetmanshoop constituency councillors with masks on doing a ground breaking ceremony for a project. Behind them is a tight group of people, not wearing masks and not too fussed about it. Police arriving every now and then to beat up people in the lower-income areas does not teach people WHY social spacing is a must.

We demand washing hands regularly of people who have no water. The people involved with the Tippy Tap experiment are to be congratulated. The apparatuses are not meant to be long term installations. They will be vandalized by the ignorant. Their parts will be stolen by the selfish. Free-roaming, thirsty livestock will smell the water and go get it. And the questions of who physically keeps filling the water receptacle 24/7/365 and who pays for that water, want an answer.

The instinct is to keep mass messages simple. For a political message, that is a good rule; in a pandemic…not so much. If people are not convinced about why they must do something they would not ordinarily do, they will ignore it. Spreading disease could be the result.

Let us teach our people to think about COVID-19 and then, do what they can to protect themselves.

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