Effects of COVID-19 in young people’s lives #2 / by Musawenkosi Mhanje
Life has to turn out to be bloodcurdling to every human being on earth. The enthusiastic youths of the 21st century have been tongue-tied by the dreadful pandemic, COVID -19. As a consequence, it has stirred destructive impacts on the young people of this era, with much-losing hope, some losing lives and for the rest of us, the future is not certain. This becomes worrisome during the pandemic that young people, who hold high volumes of the world’s population are very much affected. Paradoxically, we cannot refute that there remain some optimistic sound effects. It is then the role of this essay to bring out to the shore the effects of the pandemic to youths in Zimbabwe which could be the same effects that young people across the globe could be facing. The essay will also give insights into the positive effects of COVID-19 as speaking of the negatives will be an overgeneralisation.
As the saying goes, we eat to live, not live to eat, it then stands opposite as the present situations have forced the general populace to live to eat. COVID-19 has triggered a lockdown that has been initiated by the government forcing every wage earner to pull back and stay at home for their own well-being. Hunger has become the order of the day for child-headed families, with happiness flying through the window due to the lack of income to bring food to the table. Youth-led businesses in the informal sector have closed with those that relied on crossing borders for supply facing hardships in keeping their business running, there is nowhere to order new stock and the remaining ones have almost close to none buyers
Furthermore, many companies have closed down while some have retrenched, for example, Simbisa brand has cut off its number of employees with those that have lost their jobs vulnerable to the escalating hunger saga intensifying behind closed doors. Hence, with an idle mind, young people are tempted by idle thoughts that propel them to do undigested acts that have seen many behind bars so as to get a better eating culture than that being faced at home. All this being caused by the unpreparedness of many youths who were already suffering to raise capital though employed. Thus, COVID-19 in a way is a slow killing poison to many of our working class.
COVID-19 has disrupted the educational systems with some of the institutions like the University of Zimbabwe and Great Zimbabwe University opting for e-learning. This has frustrated those coming from countryside regions, who have a shorthand financially to buy data and have access to e-learning whilst on the other hand facing network issues. Therefore, in a bid to develop young people’s minds COVID-19 has shattered the dreams of many.
Family planning is a crucial necessity in such times when there is no entertainment, sex then takes precedence. Stocked condoms run out, unprotected sex comes to play, leaving most vulnerable to transmission of STIs including HIV and unintended pregnancies. In Ghana, through a published article, women were reportedly crying for rescue from the government to ease lockdown as their male counterparts were asking for a lot of sex. Young couples are not left out and so are dating youth cohabitating together.
Adding on, price hikes of basic commodities affects the medical sector as medication and treatment for STIs is expensive for young people who have no means for income as many young people who have no idea of Organizations like ZNFPC who can assist with providing free STI screening and treatment for students under the age of 24. Challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health information services – including contraception and HIV medications- will exacerbate the risks to young people’s lives. Sexual and reproductive health and rights must not be de-prioritised by governments. They are essential life-saving services that need to be part of the critical response to this crisis.
Home sweet home has turned sour in toxic families where parents verbally insult their children. In such homes gender based violence is ripe. For example, in the first weeks of the 21 days of lockdown, a chat circulated on social media of a young woman who faced sexual harassment at home with the father being the perpetrator. The father would: walk in on her naked, show her his genitals and ask her to watch porn with him, thus home is no longer safe for young people. UNESCO (2020) posits that quarantine measures imposed as a response to COVID-19 pandemic are putting young people at risk, in particular, young women who are at risk of violence in the home, cutting them off from essential protection services and social networks. Economic stress on families due to the outbreak put young women at greater risk of exploitation.
Verbal abuse at home due to COVID-19 provokes a lot of victims falling into depression and anxiety. With no one to talk to such individuals turn to be a danger to the family and themselves. For instance, to the family, a woman axed her husband at Mganwini due to mental health issues, to the individual, they start developing suicidal tendencies. On the 19th of April 2020, a man from Mount Darwin committed suicide after he had impregnated a 21 year old young woman. Stress and anxiety kick in hard in such times forcing one to think that there is no other way to solve the issue than to end their own life, which is not ideal.
COVID-19 has loosens young people`s relationships especially on the aspect of bonding with friends since no groups of people should meet. Physical stability is now being deteriorated as young people were used to be moving up and down not just staying and doing nothing. This has a negative bearing to the education sector as there could be an increase in the number of school drop outs as most young people have resonated in the abuse of drugs, destroying their health, lives and future in the process.
However, it will be an overgeneralisation to point the negative impacts of COVID-19 without reflecting on the positives. To begin with, COVID-19 has brought about family bonding as families are now spending a lot of time with their families in their homes. Everjoy Phiri, a student at GZU said, “Lockdown has brought love in the family, my parents no longer have unnecessary fights like they used to when they were about to start their divorce, they now play and have fun, they even tore the divorce papers and stated anew.”
Organisations like Feed the City which are led by young people have taken a step in feeding the different locations in Bulawayo. Mrs S`boniso Nkala, my next-door neighbour in Pumula North said, “If it wasn’t for these young people who share the little they have with us, I’m sure we would have starved to death.” This indicates that young people have not chosen to sit in their hands but however are creative enough to share the little they have with those that need it the most and ensuring that they get it in the comfort of their homes.
Young people have changed their business strategies with most of them taking their businesses into cars where they will be moving around different neighbourhoods selling their goods so that they can manage to raise capital to keep food on the table during the lockdown.
The sharing of information has always been vital to any era, so it the same with COVID-19 with online course on COVID-19 and SRHR being offered by various institutions so that young people are equipped with the correct and appropriate information so that they can make wiser decisions. There has been high usage of whatsApp groups which have seen a lot of young people participating showing interest in the SRHR issues being discussed and the ant relevant updates on COVID-19.
Conclusively, COVID-19 has brought about a lot of negatives to the globe and young people alike are affected. It is up to us as young people to unite and come up with initiatives that will help up keep moving forward while adhering to the prevention strategies handed out by WHO.