The Covid-19 viral disease is a global crisis. It should be taken seriously. However, the disease and the measures we have taken against it have brought some good things, too.
1. Hand sanitizer points. The young man or woman at the mall or the government building with a spray bottle of hand sanitizer and corporate t-shirt, and generally and surprisingly, a smile, has quickly become part of Windhoek life. I hope they will continue to be seen after the pandemic is over. As well as helping to protect hygiene, probably reducing the number of dead-ordinary cases of ‘flu, common colds and salmonella, it’s a rare example of businesses caring for their customers and staff, and a symbol, however limited, of us all being in this together.
2. Concern for the working class. This is something we are still working on. But not since the nineties have I, a resident of a relatively posh suburb, heard so much talk about sanitation in the townships, the state of public health facilities, the training of health workers. Concerned talk is not necessarily the same as being a good ally to disadvantaged people in the fight for decent healthcare for all. Still, it’s a starting point.
3. Home workouts. I’ve lost count of the number of fitness instructors and personal trainers and yogis and martial arts masters, who are putting their workouts on YouTube and Instagram for free, several times a week. If you want to get fit, but can’t afford a trainer, this is a golden opportunity. The idea that exercise can be done at home or around your neighborhood, with minimal equipment, is one I hope catches on.
4. Distance learning. With many classes at UNAM and NUST containing well over 100 students, I can’t see any alternative to at least some full-time education going online. And happening via the radio and in the post and through other innovative means. I love standing and talking in front of a class, but there are arguably more efficient ways to teach. Distance learning, by its very nature, places more responsibility on the student to understand and interpret, and less on the teacher/ lecturer to explain. It is high time that Namibian schools and colleges make this switch in emphasis. The damage done by ‘rote learning’ cannot be underestimated.
One day, Covid-19 will be water under the bridge. There may be some national – and certainly much international – trauma in the meantime. But it always impresses me how quickly people are able to heal from traumatic events. And hopefully, this crisis will leave us with some good things to keep doing.
Hugh Ellis is a lecturer in the Department of Communication at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, and a former journalist and public relations practitioner. As communications officer for UNICEF Namibia he was involved in the organization’s Namibian response to Avian Flu and Swine Flu outbreaks in the 2000s. The views expressed here are personal views.