In episode 9 of Lit’EDTech Fiesta, Daastan invited Mthokozisi Ndebele and Diamond George to talk about remote working situation amidst the pandemic.
Meet the panelists
Mthokozisi Ndebele and Diamond George joined us all the way from Zimbabwe and Liberia to talk about the impacts of Covid-19 on their countries. Ndebele is a women’s rights activist and an active participant of human rights advocacy activities. In addition, he is a part of faith and community building organisations. Similarly, Diamond is working with non-profit youth organisations in Liberia. Moreover, since the last 5 years he has been in the education sector.
Covid-19 statistics of Zimbave
Mthokozisi begins by shedding light on the statistics of Covid-19 in Zimbave.
“Since March 2020, there have been 40,927 recorded cases of Covid-19. Out of which 1,647 resulted in deaths.”
Prior to Covid-19, 3 provinces of Zimbave were struck by malaria. Then the outbreak of Covid-19 added to the already existing blow to economy, healthcare and education sectors.
Rise in sexual and gender based violence
Both Mthokozisi and Diamond highlight the increasing rate of sexual and gender based violence not only in their countries but all around the world. Along with other urgencies, sexual assault and domestic violence hotlines were made available all around the world. Due to the growing seriousness of the issue, cases of sexual and domestic violence were declared a worldwide emergency.
Diamond talks about the rampant gender based violence in his country Liberia during covid, that led to a nationwide protest. The protest later caught the attention of government and policy makers, leading to the much needed intervention. Furthermore, different non-profit organisations also came forward to raise awareness about the issue.
Remote work amidst the pandemic
80-90% of the population of Zimbabwe is self-employed. When the covid hit the world in 2020, lockdowns were imposed worldwide. Likewise in Zimbabwe, a 21 day lockdown was implemented. This included almost total restriction of mobility, closing of recreational and as well work places. During this time, Mthokozisi mentions people suffered greatly financially.
There were three major problems that emerged for the people of Zimbabwe. Firstly, the lockdown restricted the movement causing issues of supply and demand for start ups. Secondly, the skyrocketing prices of internet connection made it difficult for official and educational sectors to shift to online modes. Thirdly, working remotely isn’t as easy as it sounds. One might think, remote work means flexible work hours but that’s not the case. Working from home comes with great challenges. For instance, there are all sorts of distractions, which one has to put aside in order to focus on work.
Remote Education and Pandemic
The pandemic forced the world to adopt a new normal. This new normal includes online mode of education. However, in the developing countries, the transition to online schooling has been full of challenges. Diamond explains how in Liberia, only 5% of the educational institutions shifted towards an online mode. He expressed how digital illiteracy and expensive internet connection is the cause, that the children in Liberia lost precious months of school. However, the teachers of Liberia worked hard to devise a system to keep the classes going even if it was once a week. Mthokozisi also contributed to the discussion by highlighting the problem of internet expenses faced by the people of Zimbabwe.
The Ebola Outbreak
Diamonds probes into the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia to provide context for the current covid situation. For the people of Liberia, having dealt with a pandemic once knew how to deal with Covid-19. During the 2014 Ebola pandemic in West Africa, there were 28,639 suspected, probable, and confirmed Ebola cases and 11,316 Ebola deaths as of February 28, 2016. In comparison, all other known Ebola cases and outbreaks combined had 2,427 recorded cases and 1,597 deaths. Apart from the terrible health consequences, the Ebola outbreak had a significant socio-economic impact.
Pandemic as a learning curve
Ndebele and Diamond end the session on a positive note. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, they are grateful for the learning opportunities that emerged during this time. Diamond believes that the pandemic forced him to get out of his comfort zone. Meanwhile, Ndebele remarks on the possibility of a life without constantly rushing to work meetings.
We hope episode 9 provided a perspective on the reality of pandemic in Zimbabwe and Liberia. You can stream the full episode here. For more literary goodness, stay tuned!