When a crisis hits, it is easier to respond when we have the right tools in place to help us reorganise, revolutionise and move fast with the ‘new normal’. Talking of the right tools, these are the emergency response tools to contain disease outbreaks or help initiate evacuation when calamities arise. Every country had many plans and dreams to achieve in the year 2020 but a deadly virus came into existence and the world’s politics and socio-economic life got disrupted. COVID-19 pushed nations into making radical decisions to avoid the spread of the virus.
Learning institutions, places of worship and all gatherings had to be suspended by governments till further notice. To help prevent the virus from spreading, heads of states and governments had to implement further measures such as lockdowns and curfews with an emphasis on social distancing. This has affected the lives and livelihoods of many people, majority being the youth especially in countries such as Kenya where more than half of the population is youth. Social distancing has drifted people apart as everyone is on the run to keep themselves safe from COVID-19. In July 2020, I had a chance to talk to a few youth representatives and here were their views.
Challenges and fears
Many youths feel left out due to the challenges posed by coronavirus and isolation has been an eye opener on the importance of human interactions in our lives.
“My name is John Muthiani. I’m married. I’m a photographer and a drone operator. My main income is from gatherings such as weddings and other social functions. As we’re all aware that social distancing is on of the measures of containing COVID-19, I would say that I was one of the worst hit people when this pandemic came. Since the first case was reported, I have been facing various challenges as the government called off all social gatherings. I had to cancel all events and was forced to return all deposits that had been paid. Luckily, I had some savings that kept me going until I managed to secure subcontracts in drone operations from clients in Konza Techno City. I must say, COVID-19 has taught me many lessons. I came to realise that investing in friends has many benefits. The contracts I got were all as a result of my networks. Indeed, God has been faithful to me.”
“My name is Vane Olisah. I am a final-year student at Karatina University pursuing political science and public administration. This pandemic has shut down my anticipated dream of finishing my undergraduate programme this year, though the school is racing against time to help us cover the entire programme through online classes. COVID-19 has caused a lot of anxiety but currently I’m trying to cope with the situation as I learn new skills.”
“I’m Wanjiru Njambi, a resident of Kariobangi North Ward. I’m in my second year at the University of Nairobi, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. COVID-19 slowed me down and I don’t know when I’m going to graduate. COVID-19 makes me feel afraid of running my daily errands. I feel oppressed with the new life that COVID-19 has brought about. The ‘new normal’ has so many rules that are preventing me from living like I used to. I want to feel free again, I feel captured, closed, confused and helpless. I miss my old routines, my old way of living; I miss my friends. School is harder and more stressful than before. I wish my lecturers were empathetic to other needs.”
As depicted above, if the youth were mentored and empowered, their fears towards the vicissitudes of life would be dampened and much could be accomplished as we look forward to achieving Vision 2030.
A vision of success
If I was asked to define my vision of what success would look like in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the short term and long term, I would definitely talk about the solidarity of helping each other and living in unity, protecting the earth and humanity and volunteering to make a real contribution to changing the world.
Safeguarding the mental health of the youth will play a big role in helping the youths realise their potential and career goals as they prepare to join the world’s digital economy with the aim of transforming lives. I can confirm that I’ve benefited much from the IBD webinars that I’ve been attending and I’m looking forward to contributing to transforming the lives of my fellow youths. I’m now well-informed on matters relating to our country’s Vision2030, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the current global crisis.
Impacting the youth with knowledge through mentorship will play a big role in discovering Kenya’s untapped treasure such as the blue economy, since the youths are the gears of progress for this nation. Kenya has hidden treasures in the sea. For years, this has been a fitting metaphor for Kenya’s unexploited wealth in the sea. Recovery and revitalisation was the new strategy Kenya had embarked on as a process of recovering past glory and building a strong economy. The wheels were already in motion until COVID-19 came and everything slowed down.
To achieve the vision, helping people take care of their mental health and emotional wellbeing at this time is one of the most important points. Daily blogs and webinars from Impact Borderless Digital, a mentorship programme founded by Nashon Adero, reinvigorate me and have been of great benefit during these challenging times. I’ve learnt to stay alert and positive during this pandemic. From the guest speakers I’ve been able to see how everyone has different ideas for solutions to the same problem. It is really exciting participating in such webinars. It has given me chances to channel my own energy and creativity to positive areas when the need to connect with others is strong. It has also unleashed my massive potential to contribute not only to my own wellbeing but to the wellbeing of the society at large. I quote Nashon Adero, “Mentorship is like the fruit-bearing fertilizer, an essential part of the nourishment that must complement the fertilizer for vegetative growth. Mentorship is the normal material of progressive professionals in the rapidly globalising marketplace. We must move away from training modes which only lead to drops of skills in an ocean of academic qualifications.”
By John Waruru Gitau, IBD mentee and a fourth-year engineering student at Taita Taveta University (Kenya), the 8th African Centre of Excellence (CEMEREM) under the DAAD-funded Centres of Excellence Initiative. Over the period June – July 2020, John participated in participatory online hands-on research for evaluating the feasibility of an engineering construction project in Voi as part of youth mentorship by IBD.
This is the product of more than a decade of dedicated experience in research, skills development, training, and mentorship. Through mentorship and career development fora, IBD empowers youth with the knowledge, international exposure, and digital fluency they need to be emancipated global citizens with borderless influence for sustainable development.