COVID-19 holistic view impact on students
It was Sunday at night, 15 March 2020 few minutes after 20h00 when President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa addressed the nation. People watched President Ramaphosa national address with varying degrees of expectations and we (students), likewise with all other citizens and/or stakeholders, we had our own expectations which in one way or another can be comparable with that of uroboros snake. Subsequently, President Ramaphosa declared a national disaster. The declaration of COVID-19 as a national disaster meant that Universities across the country had to cease to operate, adhering to the Presidents’ declaration, as mass gathering was banned.
Prior to President Ramaphosa’s nation address the students were already panicking and anxious given that the week the President addressed as time to evacuate places of residences, was assessment week for us UCT students. For instance, I was in my room busy completing my assignments due on the very same week while watching the President addressing the nation.
Immediately after the President addressed the nation, my fellow students from Leo Marquard Hall, Tugwell Hall and other residences at Lower Campus, gathered outside Leo Marquard Hall celebrating the suspension of lectures. They could be heard singing and shouting “corona”!!! I was alarmed by my fellow students’ naïve reaction to immediately violate the President orders a few minutes after the nation address. It was not only me alone who was astonished by my fellow students’ reaction and Wits University student’s reaction. On social media pages, Twitter, people condemned UCT and Wits student’s reaction to the declaration of a national disaster.
Nevertheless, the excitement was short lived. Subsequent to the declaration of a national disaster by the President, the university announced that all students had to vacate residences with 72 hours. Frustration soon descended upon the students as 72 hours was impractical given that the university announcement to vacate the residents was impromptu unexpected. For the international students the frustration was compounded given that there were certain countries who had banned travelling and had already close their boarders. Nonetheless, UCT executives and student housing efficiently and effectively managed the crisis of having student stranded and provided transport means to all students who could not afford to buy bus tickets for themselves. Despite UCT effective and efficiently handling the matter, our SRC seemed determined to cause confusions among the students with contradicting statements.
At the time of writing, it is now two weeks since President Ramaphosa declared the national lockdown and students have vacated residences and are back to their homes. However, the notion of home is not the same for us all the students. There are those students with ergonomics homes, thus their homes are conducive for study, and there are those students who went back to homes with no ergonomics whatsoever for them to efficiently do their work. Moreover, we are all cognizant of South Africa’s spatial planning is still reflecting our past history Apartheid. Therefore, students in deep rural areas with poor network connectivity are the worst students to be affected by the lockdown and eviction from the residents. For instance, how could a student from a congested household and a densely populated area maintain social distancing? How is a student with self-employed parent/s going to survive with his parent/s not receiving any form of income during the lockdown period? The previous questions raises existential questions for the latter type of students who reside in a state of survival back in their homes during the lockdown period whether are they next for their lives to be either taken by the virus if not by the hunger and mental health problems they are going to encounter during the lockdown period.
As a black middle-class student born and raised from township, I resonate with the experience of the latter students from the paragraph. Social distancing in township and home studying and/or online studying is not an absolute possible phenomenon. Nonetheless, I would appeal to my fellow students and countryman that we must never permit this pandemic to deprive us our humanity and take care of those who are less fortune than us. Moreover, the fake news are also advancing their propagandas and conspiracy theories, therefore, I would recommend that follow credible news broadcasting channels and official government communications and adhere to government regulations for us to overcome this pandemic. Adhering to government regulations, so far, has proved to be yielding positive results. For instance, President Ramaphosa recently announced that the infection rate decreased from 42% to 4%. This is commendable therefore let’s endure the remaining weeks that are left by staying home and go out only for essential services as proclaimed by the government.