The kids might be looking well and for now behaving like they are coping amid the effects of covid-19.The truth is they are not. Botswana government has taken a right decision to keep the schools open. But at a large cost because the teachers are dying. And the children go back home after school where they meet their parents and elderly grandparents who as we know by now are fragile and most likely to die from Covid-19. A lot of emphasis has been put on the well-known science that kids are less prone to the debilitating medical effects of covid-19.Other equally important areas have been neglected.
Since Covid-19 started there have been growing incidents of teenage pregnancy especially in rural areas. This is because school going kids have fallen through the fracks of poverty as a result of parents losing their jobs. Children’s long-term mental health is a big concern. Not much is happening on the ground to demonstrate that mental health of kids is taken as a priority.
Yet it is clear that school going kids, as early as at primary school are grappling with too much uncertainties that are too harmful for them given their age. Many of them are asking themselves endlessly just when Covid-19 will end. Some are asking themselves if they will survive it or whether it will kill them. Some of them are asking themselves just what wrong they could have done for God to punish them so hard. This is because for them, because they are young the pandemic is perceived as an issue that is entirely personal.
All these are big issues that will most likely haunt the nation post-Covid-19.The issues could manifest themselves through increased incidents of depression, suicides, mental breakdowns, family breakdowns and a generation that is generally incapable of creating relationships. The unfolding tragedy is not only confined to the school going kids. The young adolescents are facing it too. There is also the economic front that has left these young people exposed – possibly never to recover. Many of them had just left family homes to start new lives after college. The pandemic has now put paid to all that. A result, which is immediately clear on social media is a growing anger and resentment among this generation.
This anger is mainly directed towards symbols of authority like government – but also towards their parents and other older generations who they directly accuse of mismanaging not just the pandemic that has ruined them, but also the economy of the country in prior years. They have totally lost faith in leadership. And it looks irredeemably so. Unlike their parents this group is fundamentally suspicious of authority such that a majority of them do not want to cooperate on all the protocols and mandates churned out by government. They feel they have no obligation to help authorities that have not done anything for them to start with other than plunder their future.
They are no doubt unsettled by what is happening around them. Many of those who the pandemic found already in employment have lost their jobs. Those who were able to keep their jobs have had their wages reduced by half or more. Government has by all intents and purposes stopped hiring. In Botswana government has been by far the biggest employer for years. Many of these kids get worried by what they see as a private sector that neither big nor vibrant to start with, is now dwindling into insignificance.
Where a promise of citizen economic empowerment used to hold a lot of promise, what they now see is stealth movement towards abandoning all about that policy posture. They are not entirely wrong to come to a conclusion that they are on their own. Covid-19 has been a global shock. For kids it is much more personal hence it is much more harmful.