SIX MONTHS AFTER ARRIVAL of the novel coronavirus in Kenya, things have really changed. From fear, despondency, lockdowns, curfews and hope; it has been a roller coaster of its own kind. Deep in South western Kenya, in the county of Nyamira, the residents have been lucky, or blest, as the number of reported cases have been insignificant. In fact even the adherence of the measures to counter the virus’ spread has been largely nonchalant. And as days drag on, more and more people are throwing all caution to the wind, and bracing themselves for what tomorrow might bring. Well, in terms of the COVID-19.
Meanwhile, as doors to schools remain closed, school children loiter and wander around even in the odd hours, much more to the chagrin of their parents. As that happens, statistics from the governments vis a vis early pregnancies indicate that the numbers are soaring day by day. Parents have panicked. Who will save this COVID-19 generation?
Last month alone, the ministry of health in the country reported five thousand cases of early pregnancy in the neighboring Narok County. In places of worship and via local media, parents and administrators have shouted themselves hoarse trying to contain the raging blood of youngsters, mostly in primary and secondary schools.
“If you look around the villages, there are so many single mothers. There are so many children whose fathers are not known, and the mothers are so young. Please avoid these reckless romantic relationships. Use this time to stay at home and study,” said Douglas Okero the assistant chief for Nyaguku sub-location.
While addressing a youth seminar that was organised by the Seventh – day Adventist church, the sub-chief further advised the youth to avoid indiscipline in all its forms, shun drugs and alcohol and gambling.
“The youth stage is the most critical stage in one’s life. This is where you make or break your life. Be mindful of what you do during this time. And remember that corona is real,” he added.
Most parents are worried that when schools reopen, a good number of students and pupils may not resume studies, as many will have dropped out.
“I’m especially worried of my son who was a form four candidate,” says Mark Okong’o, a parent.
“At first we had arrangements where they could go and be taught by some teachers but now the arrangements are no longer there. The students grew tired and the cost became high and we could not sustain the teachers. I didn’t imagine that this disease could stay for this long,” Mark Okong’o adds.
A walk at night before 9 pm (when the curfew starts) in nearby centers will confirm the parents’ fears. In dimly lit street corners and along the rough murram roads, under trees, small cohorts of school-gong children teem. These clearly are the breeding grounds for the many illicit romances now gathering momentum in the villages. They are the harbinger to the many school-drop outs that their dear parents are afraid of.
As the youth dance to their own coronavirus rhythm, their parents and other elder members of the society are doing their thing, much more less the same, though they will justify their as a means to survival. In market places, they heap themselves together, jostling for space to buy and sell, while ignoring the possibility of contracting the virus. In some days, the police do round patrols in market places, but it seems they also grew tired or became accustomed to the civilians defiance and strong will to earn a living.
At Daraja Mbili, the biggest market in Kisii town, the county askaris are playing cat and mouse games with the sellers. Sellers are always ready to defy the government’s directive not to sell in the earst designated market places. They are ever in the lookout for the askaris, who come from nowhere, and ambush the sellers. The unlucky ones lose their merchandise to the askaris, never to recover them again. In the local village markets, almost all are forgetting masking up, with only a few putting them up, albeit not well done.
The modus operandi for conducting funerals are slowly but surely returning to normal – with hundreds of mourners attending the ceremonies. In the tea-buying centers, the young and old alike fight for tealeaves bags and for space too.
Somewhat, the gods have preserved them alive, and that gives them psyche to hasten the move to normalcy. On August 31, President Uhuru Kenyatta warned the public of ignoring the ministry of healthy rules, and said that the war was far from over.
However a spot check in some churches found out that the level of devotion in observing the health is more serious than anywhere else. At SDA Church Kiamarita, church members have their body temperatures checked before entering. In addition, their hands are sanitized and the seats are arranged one metre apart. The church’s first elder, Justus Oenga is tasked with the role of making sure that the government’s directives are adhered to, and he never hesitates from reminding his fellow faithful.
The ministry of sports and youth affairs has not yet given the green light for sporting activities to kick off, but in schools’ playground, matches are held as normal; and attract large throngs of fans.
At Tombe Primary School’s field, soccer is held every Sunday as though coronavirus vanished many years ago. Teams from as far as Kisii County travel over twenty kilometers to come and compete in this field, with teams from the locale.
Soccer zealots squeeze themselves around the pitch and along the touchline, eager to see every move that the players make on the field. Interestingly, about two-hundred meters from the field is a police post, and they do nothing as the crowds break the government directive with impunity, weekend after weekend.
Walter Mokaya is the goalkeeper for Tombe Highlights club.
“We’ve been coming here every Sunday to play with other teams. We took a break in March when the virus broke out, and resumed in August.
“However, we are doing this in secrecy because the Government has not yet allowed games to resume.”
“And again, even though people say that there is coronavirus, I really doubt because I have never heard of anybody from around who has contracted the disease. However, before we enter the field to play, our body temperatures are checked. We have a thermo-gun for that,” he says.
Brian Omao is a fan who regularly goes to the facility to watch teams play.
“I really support these games because they keep us busy on weekends after church. Besides, they curb the illegal activities such as immorality among school children because when they come here, they spend their day in doing something good,” he says.
Brian is not wearing a mask neither is he concerned about maintaining social distance.
“I don’t subscribe to the fallacy that coronavirus is there, that’s why am not wearing a mask,” he says.
I also get a chance to speak with Doreen Kerubo, who has also come here to watch the matches. Kerubo agrees to an interview, on a condition that her photo is not taken.
“The moment when the lockdowns for Nairobi and Mombasa counties were lifted, games started being held here. And I don’t believe that corona virus exists. OK, it exists in other countries, but in Kenya it’s not. People have come here from Nairobi and Mombasa and we have interacted with them, yet we have not got corona. I know the symptoms of corona and i can tell you for sure that I have never seen one who has corona. Not one. Besides, I see Mutahi Kagwe (the minister for health) everyday giving us corona updates, yet he does not wear a face mask,” she alleges.
Despite her strong and controversial sentiments about coronavirus, she is wearing a face mask pretty well and I ask to know why.
“I am wearing this mask so as to avoid greeting some people. There are people here that I don’t want even to see, not that am afraid of coronavirus,” she says as she rushes away.
Stormy wind accompanied with heavy raindrops start descending upon the fans and players. The young and old take to their heels to avoid the rains, not coronavirus. The match that was being played ends immaturely: probably until next Sunday.