The Dilemma of Covid -19 in Africa

I grew up in the nineties in Zimbabwe. The hallmark of Zimbabwe in the nineties was the Economic structural adjustment program famously touted ESAP.

ESAP was one of the many drives by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the African continent to make the mostly command South African economies more liberal.

Most of Africa had been under colonization pre- the 1960s.To break from the shackles of colonization African countries found respite in the tactics and friendship of Eastern countries such as China and Russia in fighting their colonial masters. The systems and structures of communism and socialism worked very well to fight the scourge of colonialism and so many African countries received their liberty steeped in the lessons of Mao-Ze Dong and Joseph Stalin.

From the war room mantras to the economy and daily life African states more so South Saharan states emulated the great principles of the Stalinists. It made sense. The economies were agricultural based and the euphoria of independence clouded everything. The populations were still relatively small so the war economic policies continued post independence.Until the people became more educated due to more opportunities previously not afforded to the black masses, until those at the forefront of the liberation struggle started to bear fruit off their labour by being at the forefront of black empowerment programs receiving albeit leaving others behind, until the population boomed as more food and resources became more available, until globalization and African economies needed to open up.

Pro-people policies and pro-poor policies meant African governments including our own Zimbabwe placed more emphasis on health for all, education for all and agriculture being the mainstay of the economy. Despite the success of these programs they caused a strain on the fiscal and monetary elements of governance. Public funding was too high. Public corporations too many, with central government paying the bills, or writing them off and a high wage bill for civil servants choking the life out of the economy. African governments had to do something.

Then came the candy in the form of the International Monetary Fund. Candy l say because it offered an instant high but lacked in real nutrition. The I M F meant well. The call to liberalise the economies had worked in places like Singapore and other smaller European countries and so was touted to work in places like Zimbabwe. Governments were encouraged to allow demand and supply to work – allow the free market forces to work they said. Convert public entities into private institutions they said. It had worked elsewhere so why would it not work in our scenario.

Wind back to the nineties. The IMF dangled their huge financial packages to rescue the economies and African countries needed the financiers. Markets were liberalized and the rest as they say is History!

Being a nineties teenager l fell in love with the subject of Economics. I wanted to be an economist. It was exciting to be an economist. I was introduced to the stock exchange through a program by the Zimbabwe stock exchange to introduce young learners to the exchange. l carried big economics books in my school satchel. lt was exciting! After all our form four class of 1995 produced the very best results the school had seen in our Cambridge Ordinary level exams in the Economics subject. Yes Cambridge. 15 As and 25 Bs in Economics for that year in our class. l had an A too. It became my ticket to do Advanced level. Anyone who passed economics with an A deserved to go to A’level. Such where the times and the Euphoria.

However these economic adjustments programs were a disaster. The big financial institutions came with their own antidotes for African problems. They thought just because it worked elsewhere it would work here. However our economies haemorrhaged and the masses suffered, corruption took foot and the gap between the rich and the poor increased and as a result people become disenfranchised. Then came land reform with its advantages and its many disadvantages that had a domino effect to the crumble of our economy and everything truly fell apart, creating opportunities for despondency and opposition politics. Unfortunately it was the descent into the abyss for Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately the entrance of Covid -19 presents the same dilemma for our African continent. Covid -19 is real and its impacts are real just like the issues in the nineties. It’s called the novel Covid virus by some scientists and news outlets because indeed it’s a novel sickness. We know nothing about how to handle it but deal with it as we go. Asia, Europe and America have been dealing with this disease much earlier than in Africa and have developed responses tailored to their situations and their abilities, regular washing of hands, face masks, social distancing, isolation, quarantine, early testing, lockdowns and shut downs. The health systems are stronger, the economies better and the social protection mechanisms more robust and timely. The governments have not held back neither their central banks. It’s a well oiled system but it too has struggled under the brunt of Covid.

Africa has had time before the disease has truly landed. However the dynamics in third world countries are just different than in Europe and the Americas. Our world systems are so different. The bulk of our populations stay in rural areas, in ghettos, in slums and in overcrowded cities. Our health systems are archaic and years of corruption and looting has left our social protective systems weak and unable to cope with the magnitude of a virus like Covid should it truly take hold. Our testing systems are poor and limited. Our doctors underpaid and ill equipped. It will be like a tornado when it truly comes.

Our African governments have not stood still and waited. Countries have introduced various lockdown measures to help flatten the COVID -19 curve. Our numbers have remained relatively low and it would be prudent to have them that way. The lockdown measures are helping do the job but herein lies our Covid Dilemma.

This Covid virus response needs an Afrocentric approach and not necessarily a copy and paste of the interventions seen in Europe and China and America. We do not have the communication capabilities or the information technology. Our economic systems are just not strong enough. The cure might be more catastrophic than the disease. In implementing lockdowns and shutdowns and other means it’s also important to come up with our own home grown African solutions. It’s great to see the herbalist being afforded a chance to offer their solutions, because like it or not people use home remedies like steaming and have been doing so for generations.

We don’t throw the baby with the water. We as Africans ought to be innovative in our approach while following practical advice. It is possible that some might not have soap in these trying times or in rural areas, do they stay without washing hands or do they use ash. It is up to us as Africans to also offer our own solutions without necessarily feeling like our opinions and our voices don’t matter.

Of course the world is full of misinformation and disinformation but some practical solutions exist in our day to day systems. The world is always quick to offer solutions to third world countries without conferring with the third world countries, dangling huge financial packages to lure desperate African countries. Of course Africa needs help but however Africa must also be assertive and strong it’s an opportunity to do so and be the leading light. The virus for Ebola came from within Africa. If we can have business magnates like Strive Masiyiwa and Dangote running big African industries with mostly an African workforce we surely can also do more as a people regarding the challenges brought by Covid to the African Continent. People are going about their business as usual. Water is a challenge so is information dissemination . If African countries do not develop African solutions and mitigation to Coronavirus we will truly have an African Covid pandemic.

I am a social change Entrepreneur working in rural Victoria Falls. My own experience is that we need to deliver information in a way that rural people understand and young people because our population is made up of at least 60 % rural people with the bulk not having mobile phones or the methods to power their mobile phones because in rural areas here the information and knowledge is distorted and people view the lockdown as a passing phase with some people still thinking of how they celebrate the holidays of Easter and independence the old way, we need new creative ways of ensuring social protective systems that ensure safety and continuity. Everyone talks of online learning but a spare a thought for those form fours out here without access to mobile phones let alone the data-what is to happen to their learning. That is why l work with an organisation called Global sojourns giving circle that empowers girls and strengthens communities. Why do l tout this organisation….because it allows us the helpers on the ground deliver African solutions to African problems. Unfortunately our observations are that not enough correct information is going about, posters and banners are needed, WASH resources are needed ,the nature of our resources make social distancing difficult. Our health delivery systems are too far for the rural person and the people sometimes are too ignorant. We might actually be having a ticking time bomb in Covid in Africa!

The liberation wars in Southern Africa worked because the liberation movements adopted strategies fit for the terrain and geography ,where able to mobilize people and resources and every one played their part.

It’s important not to have tunnel vision in a crises as this but to see the bigger picture.

It’s not only governments duty to play a part ,we all have a responsibility, the silence of the church has been deafening in this crises especially here in Southern Africa. Church does not meaning gathering only, it’s a reference to the body of Christ, Our clergy men, Prophets and Bishops needed to speak more to the people and offer moments of comfort and a strong voice of hope but this role has been taken more by comedians and social commentators, but the opportunity and chance is still there! Is it that as the body of Christ we have become more centered on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life and the deceitfulness of the riches? Events of Covid are not anything new to those who are avid pupils of the word of God. May the voices of African clergy arise to offer hope and comfort through media platforms as Twitter and Facebook and all other social media in this season as we search for African solutions to an African Covid problem.

It is no longer the responsibility of the west to help us, it never was. We need to arise as African people in responsibility, ubuntu, United and with a prayerful mind, together we will defeat the scourge of Covid supporting the work of our leaders in all the spheres of influence .

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3192836854061025&id=191415244203216

IN PURSUIT OF RESILIENCE: A VIEW OF VICTORIA FALLS TOURISM SECTOR POST-COVID-19

http://kubatana.net/2020/05/05/in-pursuit-of-resilience-a-view-of-victoria-falls-tourism-sector-post-covid-19/Victoria Falls is a picturesque town with an unassuming underbelly that will blow any tourist away. It aptly has been dubbed the Adrenaline Capital of the World because of the tremendous number of activities in and around the town. For those who bother counting, it is worth noting these activities number well over 50.

Perhaps best-known is whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River, through world-class rapids that torpedo would-be adventurers out of rafts only to be brought back in primarily by Tonga or Nambya lads. They come from the rural Jambezi, Jengwe, Chisuma and Binga areas, where they grow up playing in the mighty Zambezi along with the great-great-grandchildren of early white settlers.

Canoeing looks easy until you paddle too close to a hippopotamus nestled in the river’s reeds. Not to worry, highly-skilled guides will make sure you are not in harm’s way. If you fancy jumping off bridges, then the bridge swing, Batonka Gorge swing or famous bungee jump will make sure that appetite is fully satisfied.

If you are the quiet sort, sunset cruises on the Zambezi in boats of all sizes will make you want to relocate to Africa or flee city life. Delicacies are found at our impeccable hotels and lodges, with a variety from the best storehouses in Zimbabwe. The famous Flight of Angels provides glimpses of Chamabondo National Park and Zambezi National Park, where wild animals roam free.

At the top of the tourist list is the amazing curtain of water that is Victoria Falls — or Mosi-oa-Tunya, The Smoke That Thunders, in the local Kololo language. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the three largest waterfalls in the world, one cannot help but stare in awe.

Then, shop the famous markets with all manner of crafts sold by people from nearby villages and the dusty townships of Chinotimba and Mkhosana. There, craftsman and artist make their daily sales and return to their homes with essential groceries.

Victoria Falls is a bustling town churning out the elusive green bank that helps oil an economy teetering on the brink of collapse from corruption, sanctions and drought.

This was pre-pandemic Victoria Falls. Guides would shepherd happy clients on activities wearing that priceless Zimbabwean smile common among those of us smartly clad in khaki. Some guides have been known to pay for houses with tourists’ tips. Kazungula Border would be busy with visitors to and from Botswana. Transfer vehicles would make the rounds at various hotels and lodges. Overland trucks would come in from Cape Town, Kasane and Livingstone carrying tired backpackers, who, after washing off the day, would emerge and party into the night. Local taxis would ferry essential tourism workers: porters, waiters, chefs and barmen. Some night spots might not be pleasing to the eye, but they have tourist coming back for more.

Who knew it would come to an end.

Grinding to a halt

First hit were companies and individuals focusing on the “look east policy.” Asian traveler numbers dwindled, and then traffic from those countries dried up. Coronavirus came like a tornado. Rumours of job losses started circling the town and locals’ faces started looking worried. Then the virus spread to Europe, and the disaster sank in as clients from Italy, France, Spain and Britain started canceling trips. Quickly, it hit all major countries and all major markets. Travel bans and containment efforts closed everyone in their countries. Borders closed, and so did tourism’s steady income. Whole sectors have ground to a halt.

As lockdowns are lifted and restrictions revised, tourism will not recover quickly. By its nature, tourism relies on travelers’ trust. Trust takes time to build. Coronavirus is highly infectious and must be fought by keeping people apart and at home, not traveling. Countries will eventually lift lockdowns, but they will not be quick to open borders for fear of reinfection by visitors.

How will Victoria Falls’ tourism industry survive after COVID-19? How will the sprawling workforce and their families not only survive lockdown and an extended period of no business, but thrive afterward?

Resilience. Constant and consistent. That’s how.

Realign to reopen

The pause this virus brought on our lucrative and critical industry is a necessary and useful one. Now, tourism actors can realign their product mix and value chain to not only withstand this seismic shock but others that might follow. Tourism in Zimbabwe has serious inequalities, with too few in control and benefits not trickling down, and Victoria Falls is no exception. The worldwide pandemic has exposed the glaring inequalities in income and national and individual resources. Too few are running the show and making decisions for too many. The pie is unevenly distributed. The industry has not afforded an opportunity for smaller players to take root. Tourism stakeholders have not been innovative enough or willing to incorporate new thinking.

We have a great variety of lovely products, but a tourist who came 20 years ago will experience the same product now without any added value. Its important to incorporate innovation in product delivery, payment systems and after-sales service. After all, a key element of the service mix is process. Processes and systems must be better tuned and more aligned to the digital world post COVID-19.

Tourism players have not invested in human capital development. Is not the onus on government to ensure tertiary education and vocational training for employees who must service the tourism industry? Tourism industry players must invest in the education of their own and value their employees by offering well-paying salaries and long term contracts. That will add value to the product chain. Employees must take a serious look at increasing their knowledge and investing in education, too.

Tourism players must invest in new technology and new products. In the post-COVID-19 world, big companies must find space for small companies, and small companies and individuals must be ready and willing to fill the space. Every one will basically be starting on the same footing. This is an opportunity for new start-ups.

Our products must cause less damage to the environment, be more encompassing of indigenous communities, be less dismissive of workforce grievances, and less reliant on marketing. We must aim to deliver a holistic product able to draw repeat clients who enjoy our unique offerings. We must forge better partnerships between private business and government. The disparity between the poor and rich must shrink substantially.

Resilience and rebound

This pandemic is the do-not-put-all-your-eggs-in-one-basket lesson. The tourism system suffered a great and immediate shock because resilience was never an important concept. The jobs fell too quickly, the money and resources dried up too quickly, and hunger set in too quickly.

In as much as it is a government’s duty to create protective social systems, it is the duty of those who employ people in the private sector — the tourism sector — to create protective systems for loyal workers. Dollars must be invested in employee welfare. The dramatic job losses we witnessed all too quickly cannot be repeated.

Tourism revenues must be used to build the infrastructure of tourism towns — health delivery, education, water and electricity — before revenues reach national purses.

Zimbabwe’s geography means most tourist attractions are in towns and small cities. Have they benefited from their resources so that they can cope with the seismic impacts of a pandemic? An important reason travelers chose specific destinations is stability, the perception that these attractions are able to cope with uncertainty. In the post-pandemic world, this perception will be an even more important factor in travelers’ decisions. Tourism players must be sure their towns and attractions are equipped with world class hospitals, emergency services and communication capabilities.

Resilience, or at least the pursuit of resilience, will need a concerted willingness and effort across the board. Failure will mean this town will be a ghost of its former self.

Source: Sfe Sebata*

THE CHALLENGES OF E-LEARNING AND HOMESCHOOLING IN RURAL AREAS

http://kubatana.net/2020/05/12/the-challenges-of-e-learning-and-homeschooling-in-rural-areas/

The challenges presented by the coronavirus to society’s daily grind are emerging startling clear, like a rainbow albeit without beautiful colors.

One area highly affected by this pandemic is education. At the peak of lockdowns worldwide, surveys estimated that at least 1.7 billion students had stopped attending school. Some countries have relaxed lockdowns, but the number of students affected is still high. Education has been brutally affected because the system relies on brick and mortar institutions — attending lessons in physical buildings. Few had the understanding that this routine would undergo unprecedented shifts — and as such, few were well-prepared. Now, we do not know when it will be safe for our young people to gather again in classrooms and how this will be implemented post-COVID-19. When government reviews its decisions on school closures and openings, we do not know the level of trust parents and guardians will have in releasing students.

As the second school term should have been in full swing by now, schools in towns and cities have adopted an e-learning model, and parents are adopting home schooling as a solution. Teachers are being resourceful and creating models with WhatsApp groups, Zoom meetings and other e-learning tools. E-learning and homeschooling are certainly not substitutes for actually attending lessons, but they certainly can keep students abreast with studies and preparations for important public examinations.

The challenges, however, lie in rural Zimbabwe. Can e-learning and homeschooling tools be used to help keep students current with their school work and commitments? Unfortunately, rural students are in a difficult quagmire. District councils, private telecommunications companies and government ministries did not put in place enough infrastructure to create an environment that can foster e-learning in rural schools and institutions.

To begin with, most rural schools and institutions do not have electricity. This means these schools do not have basic technology and cannot teach students how to use computers. In fact, teachers themselves do not have computers, as no investment has been made to buy them. Teachers struggle to charge phones or must travel long distances to charge phones, in part resulting in many well-qualified teachers not taking up positions in rural schools. Thus, most schools are understaffed.

For example, in Hlanganani, a village under Chief Mvutu in Matebeleland North near Victoria Falls, Mizpah Primary School has not had electricity since a transformer was hit by lightning more than eight years ago. Villagers’ pleas to various government officials have not led to any action by local councillors. Students and teachers have suffered the most. The eight years are a missed opportunity for pupils to learn important ICT skills. One wonders if this transformer had been hit in an affluent part of Zimbabwe whether the problem would have been solved within six months.

Unfortunately, this school is a catchment school for many villages, and as such, the lack of electricity is a terrible disservice to our young people. Of the three Wifi network providers in Zimbabwe, two can be accessed in this area, but with limited bandwidth. One has to use 2G to receive online services in many parts of the villages. The cost of obtaining smartphones is simply out of reach for most students and their families. For those who obtain phones, the price of data is a huge challenge, making e-learning platforms essentially inaccessible.

Homeschooling in rural areas is a challenge because of myriad other reasons, such as the seemingly endless domestic chores young people face — herding cattle or fetching firewood and water, sometimes from a long distance. Unfortunately, in our patriarchal society, girls face the additional obstacles of cooking and washing clothes and dishes. With no decent lighting to use at night, studying after dark is not a viable option. As the food security challenges grow, more and more young people have to prepare gardens near boreholes and spend most of their time making sure the vegetables do not dry up in our hot temperatures.

Most parents and guardians do not complete grade seven or high school; some believe that as long as a child can read and write their name, that will suffice. Those who believe in the value of education might struggle to understand the requirements of a new syllabus, be out of their depth on how to teach or help their children, or might not police enough children to make homeschooling effective.

All this is why social protective systems such as mentors, clubs and community champions can help make parents and students understand the perilous situation they face if they sideline education and value chores over learning. Community champions and mentors can help students with notes, with access to data by sharing knowledge, and by meeting one-on-one or in small groups that respect social distancing.

In my work as a mentor for a number of girl clubs, I have had clarion calls by students, both girls and boys, that they want to learn and are worried about their futures and whether they will do well if examinations take place. They see their environment as a stumbling block. Most girls have benefited from a program we run with the Global Sojourns Giving Circle, which pays for examination fees for all the Form 4 students in our clubs. This year, we managed to pay for 15 girls who otherwise would have struggled to pay the fee. Now, most of them are worried that this opportunity might pass them by, just when their futures were beginning to appear bright with an opportunity to stop the vicious cycle of poverty.

Unfortunately, developing an e-learning culture and environment is not going to be a walk in the park. It is not a one-day investment. Rather, serious money must be invested in rural education in Zimbabwe with the private sector and government working together.

In the mean while, however, what will happen to the generation of young people in rural areas left behind? This is indeed a challenging time, even as the national Sustainable Development Goals in this decade of action for Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 call for no one to be left behind.

Source: Sefelepelo Sebata*

*Sefelepelo Sebata is the Project Cordinator at http://www.risenshinetrust.org

UNRAVELLING THE IMPACTS OF COVID-19 ON WOMEN AND GIRLS.

It sounds cliché, but COVID-19 will adversely affect women and girls. Traditionally, they carry the brunt of war , famine and poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly have a more gender-biased effect. The nature of a woman’s body and the roles women play in many cases puts women in harm’s way. Especially in Africa, women are the frontline care givers and support systems. It is they who must consistently ensure that homes are clean and safe and there is a steady supply of water. Statistics in Malawi, for example, show that 82 percent of domestic work is done by women and 18 percent by men. In rural areas, domestic work can mean fetching water up to five times a day, each journey 2-4 kilometers, using a traditional form of carrying water — the top of the head. How ironic that to fight this pandemic, scientists say, it is prudent to often wash hands for 20 seconds. The fact is, the amount of water needed for this is staggering. For those with clean water coming out of pipes, this does not seem to be a daunting task. But take these statics seriously: key findings of a 2019 Zimbabwe survey show that slightly more than six in 10 Zimbabweans have basic drinking water services, with 92 percent in urban areas and 51 percent in rural areas. Surveys note that the average time spent collecting and fetching water in rural areas is between 31 minutes and 3 hours each day. Surveys show that water collection is primarily the responsibility of women 15 years and older — 79 percent women collect water vs 21 percent of men. Entrenched traditional patriarchal systems mean men do not go to the local borehole to collect water. In this season of COVID-19 and with 60 percent of our population being rural, women are carrying this health burden. Girls usually help fetch water, but in our villages, younger girls have been asked not to go fetch water to reduce the possibility of infection. The concern is that younger people might not be able to adhere to the sanitization regime needed to ensure boreholes do not become breeding grounds for community infection. Keeping boreholes sanitized is a tall order as all manner of people need to use water, and most rural boreholes do not have a tap, but rather a hand pump. Practicing social distancing is hard when boreholes are both manual and old, rusty and difficult for one person to pump. Women, thus, must try to ensure the safety of their families yetstill protect themselves. Gathering firewood is an essential task traditionally assigned to women. They must forage for wood outside their rural homes and in peri-urban areas, possibly coming into contact with other women and increasing chances of community infection. In some cases, women do this chore as a group because being alone in the woods makes one a target for attack, usually rape. It is not an overestimation to say that most families were caught unprepared for the lockdowns around the world, but more so here in Africa. The nature of our economies is such that savings are impossible. People live hand-to-mouth, and as lockdowns take effect, the entrepreneurial spirit cannot be sustained. This means households just do not have the food and resources to make it through the lockdown. Unfortunately, in these times, men usually have better resources, means and bargaining power. Herein lies the danger for women and girls – transactional sex. This will be high for those women and girls in vulnerable situations who might not have resources to alleviate hunger. The lopsided nature of the transactions mean girls and women might not be able to negotiate for safer sex, thus opening them to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Domestic violence also will be on the rise. A 2019 national survey suggested that 22 percent of women in Zimbabwe experienced some type of emotional violence in the past 12 months. This statistic reflected the context of daily life without the added anxiety about the current pandemic. Beer has been labelled an essential service in Zimbabwe during the outbreak. While one cannot argue that alcohol consumption is a social pastime that helps keep vast swaths of our population occupied in these difficult times and a good number of people are employed in the alcoholic beverage industry, one can argue that it is also the fire that lights the wrath of domestic violence. Perpetrators inebriated when families are cooped up with limited social protection systems is a recipe for disaster. Those who abuse by pushing, shaking, twisting and pulling arms and hair, punching, kicking, dragging, beating, strangling, burning, threatening and otherwise attacking women and girls might be wrecking havoc when social support systems are at their lowest. Women are facing domestic and sexual violence in silence, without a means of recourse. This scenario is exacerbated by the fact that CSOs and NGOs have not been deemed essential services during the lockdown, increasing the vulnerability of women and girls. The hours people are spending together at home are unprecedented, and it is no wonder that the biggest condom maker said its stocks had plummeted significantly. The nature of lockdowns is such that contraceptive access and use will be limited, creating conditions for unwanted pregnancies, backyard abortions, breeding grounds for sexually transmitted diseases and the negative impacts of increased population and disease. It is no secret that India manufactures the bulk of anti-retroviral treatments used across Africa and the developing world. It is common knowledge that women and girls are the bulk of those affected by HIV/AIDS. India has been under lockdown, and factories that produce these treatments are not operating at full capacity. The availability of these drugs in the marketplace will be affected, possibly with long term negative impacts as women and girls struggle to access medications. COVID-19 has taken a toll on both human and financial resources, with governments having to ensure social protective nets are created to deal with the immediate effect of the pandemic. Budgets have been reduced for other essential services, such as child care and maternal care. This means an even greater burden on the shoulders of women who are the frontline, unpaid care-givers for the sick, disabled and vulnerable. All this inadvertently puts women and girls’ health at risk and jeopardizes their lifelong wellbeing. As this pandemic unravels, as we all push to make it through this difficult time, we must understand that what we do or do not do in light of COVID-19 can leave deep, long-term impacts on the lives of women — who make up more than half our population. Our choices could stifle their potential to grow, lead and prosper, and thus our country’s. Source: Sefelepelo Sebata

RISING TO THE OCCASION: THE HEROES OF COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a historic event prompting even more historic events. It is a world tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes, and fortunately or unfortunately, it has given us a rare glimpse of how humanity responds to tragedy. It has become the stage for ordinary human beings to become extraordinary. Seldom has the world needed the bravery of ordinary people the way it does now during this COVID-19 pandemic. Incredibly, the burden of this virus is being carried by some of the most unlikely people — people who have risen to the occasion as the heroes of COVID-19.

Character shows in a crisis. Crises expose the flaws and strengths of humanity. Faced with life and death choices, we expose who we truly are when adrenaline rushes to do its job and gives us strength, numbing us to pain. It always does the job of showing us in our unbridled form. Then we are truly exposed as to who we — heroes or shameless cowards.

Heroism by its nature is not thrust on the willing. It is the selfless acts that occur under excruciating circumstances that illicit admiration and devotion. Humans are prone to praise talented and gifted as heroic, but the COVID-19 pandemic shows us that heroism is found in the most mundane jobs and most unassuming characters. The pandemic has us questioning the parameters we have used to delineate past acts of heroism.

I could not help but admire a young cashier during the only grocery run l have been able to do since our lockdown began here in Zimbabwe. Wearing her mask and facing daunting lines hardly observing social distancing as customers waited to pay for their hard-fought bag of subsidized mealie meal, the girl was going about her job as usual, oblivious to the potential danger she might be in because of the many people passing by her till. l looked at her youth and felt a pang in my heart. She represented so many frontline workers deemed essential, and my assertion is she was a heroine etched out by this ravaging disease.

Clad in personal protective equipment and sometimes without its benefit, it will take a long time for us to erase the pictures of doctors and nurses heading towards the frontlines to fight the virus while the rest of us are cooped up in our homes. Despite fearing for their own lives and loved ones, doctors, nurses and all medical staff have done the selfless act and stood to defend human kind from this invisible enemy. We have indeed seen the new faces of heroism. We are grateful and know that some have lost their lives to save other lives.

Acts of kindness, of generosity, have cropped up around the world to meet the challenging times. People have made meals for neighbours, others have sewn masks, and still others have prayed or fed animals. Who can forget the musicians on balconies, the virtual DJs and parents playing full-time host to their children. Heroes and heroines of our time.

Sadly, many have been heroes in their own death. Alienated from family and loved ones, unable to touch and see the comforting looks of children, wife or husband, girlfriend, boyfriend or minister, most endured a difficult death fighting for breath. Although they could not beat the disease, they endured what most of us could not bear had we been put in their shoes. For that, they are heroes.

Heroism is staying home when you are being urged to do so, when the sun is beckoning in the parks. Heroism is going hungry because your only source of income has been taken away by a lockdown. Heroism is remembering your neighbour, rallying around each other and sharing the little we have. Heroism is rising to the occasion of coronavirus and having risen, remain standing until the fight over this scourge is won.

Source: Sefelepelo Sebata, Mentor, http://kubatana.net/2020/04/20/rising-to-the-occasion-the-heroes-of-covid-19/

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