Covid-19 has nearly turned the life upside down. According to the latest global tally, it so far affected 202 territories with over 5 million infections. The global death toll stands slightly over 350 thousand at the time of writing this piece.
The pandemic substantially affected our way of living. As curfew, lock downs, social distancing and stay at home measures take effect, inter-personal relations take strange turns; and dramatic increase of domestic abuses are reported in many societies.
The pandemic has changed the way we work, learn and integrate for the past two and half months. Many people have been (and still) telecommuting and working from home. Schools, chiefly international private ones, adopted a virtual learning system. Consequently, students continue learning through virtual means, using different learning/ teaching platforms.
The new modality has its hiccups as enabling environment is in question. The requisite amenities- space and resources- such as machines, stable and reliable power and internet connections are not so widespread, if not in short supply. Sometimes, power outage disrupts zoom or team meetings and one have to shift to alternative power to ensure business continuity. In addition, this approach serves only for students coming from relatively well-off backgrounds and hence it doesn’t work for education for all goals.
For learners in private schools to continue education, virtually, parents had to incur additional expenses by buying tablets, smartphones or any other devices to continue online learning. Sadly, this is coming at a time, when many parents were affected by the economic shocks caused by Covid-19 and the associated restrictions. Although many schools considering the current situation, reviewed fee structures and as such provided reasonable discounts, the matter couldn’t be settled amicably in some leaning centers and the issue had to be referred to courts.
The pandemic hit hard in developing countries, where unemployment is rampant and informal economy provides most of the available job opportunities. Mindful of this, governments largely refrained from imposing lock downs but rather put in place preventive measures in a bid to contain the virus.
Yet, all economic sectors are affected as planes are grounded, travel severely restricted to transporting essential commodities, restaurants and eateries closed, (partial) curfew imposed and consequently; local productivity adversely impacted; and all learning-teaching institutions closed. The governments offered tax relief to ease the suffering of the local people. Tax exemption is provided to essential food items and all medical supplies are imported without tax levy. In some instances, economic stimulant package is introduced in countries like Kenya, where the government announced a $ 503 million package to save local economy. Eight crucial sectors will reportedly benefit from this injection. These include, among other key sectors, infrastructure development, health and education development, manufacturing and agriculture; and tourism.
The pandemic has not only affected our physical, societal and fiscal aspects of life, but equally impacted on our spiritual and faith-related rituals. Worth to mention is the just ended Muslim holy month of Ramadan, where over 1.6 billion Muslims around the globe had to fast quietly amid unprecedented odd circumstances.
Ramadan is the month of reflection, caring and sharing. It is considered a spiritual retreat. It is the month when poor and less fortunate people are taken care of, almsgiving is encouraged to orphans, homeless and all those eligible and vulnerable community members. From dawn to dusk, every day, Muslims observing the holy month, strictly abstain from all food and drink, among other things. Until immemorial time, the day-long fasting is accomplished in a ritualistic, often communal feasting at evenings. Oddly, this wasn’t the case in this Ramadan and faithful Muslims had to break fasting lonely and quietly.
Furthermore, Ramadan nights are famous with colorful rituals; reading holy Quran and with special prayers known as Taraweeh, all geared to connecting the mind and soul to the creator. Taraweeh, a congregation meant to perform collectively in every night of Ramadan was suspended this year as mosques remained closed. People had to perform this special prayer at home with family members.
Eid el Fitr marks the end of month-long fasting and families celebrate together, hoping their good deeds in Ramadan are accepted. However, this year people had to observe odd Eid celebrations. This meant, performing Eid prayers at home and largely avoiding visits of loved ones and any meaningful community interactions. Due to Covid-19 containment guidelines, Eid celebrations, without the usual feasting and fanfare, is essentially reduced to a family affair. No event in the recent history has affected us and shaped our life so profoundly and pervasively.
Back home, the situation is different as people continued to perform Ramadan rituals collectively and celebrated Eid communally. The virus is spreading aggressively but local people ironically pay little attention to health advisories. Many continued to defy government-imposed guidelines whilst some even think the thing is hoax and therefore, business continues as usual. Though the government had imposed measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, it is really having tough time in winning against the disease. Needless to mention the tenuous local capacity to respond to such calamities.
As time elapses, and local people better learn the devastating impact of Covid-19, a communal behavior change- a required crucial element for this unusual fight- coupled with better response capabilities- must happen, if we want to effectively deal with the situation.
Abdirahman Adan Mohamoud