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Covid-19\Microstories. "Talents and skills, the best alternatives for the future of Africa". By Gabriel Dinda

29/10/2020 03:08 PM

Harambee

Covid-19\Microstories. "Talents and skills, the best alternatives for the future of Africa". By Gabriel Dinda

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When the first case of Covid-19 was announced in Kenya in March 2020, panic spread even among parents of children in boarding schools where facilities are shared and the risk of contagion is greater. The Government moved quickly and on March 20 ordered the closure of all schools of order and grade. Many thought that the situation would change in a few days, but it did not. The Government then began to encourage distance learning and activities involving children at home, to avoid idleness and apathy. This proposal then led to the creation of the "Community Based Learning" (CBL), an educational project for the learning of theoretical and practical knowledge organized on a territorial basis: neighborhood teachers take charge of the youth of their community.Before the initiative spread to different parts of the country, in Highrise, a neighborhood in Nairobi, a person - Musa Otieno- had already had a similar idea. Musa was one of the most appreciated players of the national soccer team of Kenya, before retiring in 2011. Later, thanks to his organization - the Musa Otien Foundation - he dedicated himself to playful and educational initiatives for children. With the Covid-19 and the obligation to limit travel, Musa decided to engage with children in her neighborhood, organizing training and educational activities that led to the establishment of a sports academy, in July 2020, thrilling parents generally obsessed with mere school results. "We have an enormous resource in this country: talent, we must cultivate it," insists Musa. And what better way to keep children busy than to involve them in sports that produces great benefits and not only on a professional level.Covid-19 has given parents the opportunity to spend more time with their children at home. After the announcement of the closure of schools for a period of ten months, families have, yes, organized the days of their children online, but for many it was an opportunity to discover and enhance skills and not only in sport, thanks to initiatives such as that of Musa. It was time to hone talents able to develop, in some cases, also remunerative initiatives. It was discovered that talent is a dowry and not necessarily an obstacle to academic careers. The need to find solutions to the many difficulties that emerged with the Coronavirus led many talented people to start entrepreneurial initiatives on a local scale, for example.One of the most interesting innovations was that of the students at Kenyatta University who designed and built a lung ventilator. This initiative has aroused great enthusiasm and has inspired the start-up of several other micro enterprises. Stephen Wamukota, a nine-year-old boy from Bungoma County, invented a machine to sanitize his hands at home using locally available materials: a bucket of water spills over with a pedal so he can wash himself without touching surfaces, reducing the risk of infection. Stephen received a presidential award for his invention. Other solutions have followed on locally, helping to improve people's daily lives. The Virus has therefore strengthened the resilience of local manufacturers and their production capacity, reducing dependence on imported products and solutions.Back to the origins
The epidemiological emergency has forced, also in Kenya, to send back home students and teachers, as well as all other workers. For the teaching staff framed indefinitely there was no great harm, since they continued to receive their salary. Most teachers, especially those in rural areas, could not even teach online because of the lack of electricity and electronic equipment. Major problems were experienced by contract teachers, whose salaries are determined by the individual schools, who, in most cases, were unable to continue to bear the burden, due to a lack of students. Since there was also a lack of private lessons at home, it was very difficult for many to make progress.

Jac Collins, a teacher, has a young family and works and lives in Kisii, a town in western Kenya. When the situation worsened, he came up with the idea of returning to his home and investing in agriculture; he returned to Homabay County and, using his meagre savings, started a poultry farm. He started with about 50 chickens and soon got the support of his family and friends to increase the business. In two months, Jac saw his idea turned into a profitable business. "I feel satisfied, I didn't know agriculture was such a beautiful thing," Jac said in an interview. Now he says when the schools reopen, he will have to reconsider his previous assignment. "I would rather teach in a village school and keep my chicken farm going.Jac is convinced that Covid-19 has given him the opportunity to see "the other side of life. Now he laments the fate of many young graduates who can barely afford the costs in urban areas, yet they believe agriculture is disreputable and that only the uneducated can practise it. Jac cherished the dream of farming but didn't have the courage to start: the difficulty of the Virus gave him the boost he needed.With the travel ban, the most affected were the low-income workers who depend on daily income to survive. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate in Kenya was high, weighing heavily on young people under 40. According to the 2019 census, the estimated unemployment rate in Kenya was 39%.
Like Jac, many young people chose to return to their rural homes when closure was imposed. This opened up new possibilities, however, as in the case of Julie Mukhwana who began to consider online as an alternative to the office communication work she was already used to. Together with her sister Julie, they began to hone their skills in April 2020 and within a month they were ready to work on the web, earning an average of $20 a day. By July, the two girls were already living comfortably online. In an interview with local newspaper People Daily, the girls encouraged young people to consider web-based job opportunities to address the challenges posed by unemployment. Experiences such as those of the two sisters have multiplied over the closing months, and although the Kenyan government had already initiated digitization and internet penetration programs in the country in 2015, the Covid-19 pandemic was certainly a catalyst.
Covid-19, therefore, may have encouraged African countries to take greater account of online work, certainly contributing to reducing unemployment rates, greater flexibility and productivity. Without thinking of the benefits related to the many difficulties that large cities bring: reduced traffic, more time to spend with the family, and so on.Denis Okova is a pharmacist who lives and works in Nairobi. When Denis graduated from Kenyatta University's medical and pharmacy school four years ago, he hoped to find a job soon. After two years as an unemployed man, he came up with the idea to start a pharmacy himself, along with a couple of friends, but with the imposed closure for the Coronavirus, business went very badly. Denis was forced to close the business and return home to the countryside. There, he didn't give up, he started to invest in dairy farming and agricultural crops. In a short time, the business grew so much that he convinced the boy to stay at home, devoting himself full-time to the work of the land.While experts speculate with good reason that the pandemic will bring economic growth to a halt in Africa and cause devastating social effects, perhaps the stories of survival and resilience told above offer hope. It is in mitigating the effects of the pandemic from within that the continent will be able to advance towards sustainable economic development, investment in better health care and access to basic services for all. The future of Africa is in its hands.


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