Young people using Whatsapp to read for the elderly during COVID19

By Relotegile Malepe

I am experiencing #covid19 with the rest of the world but currently in a foreign country, Malaysia. It has always been a personal goal to go around the world and observe how others are educationally thriving. This is for me the best way to learn how I can pave different ways to better the  education system of my home country, as an education and community development enthusiast.

I panicked because I am constantly thinking about who is teaching the children in my village about the seriousness of this disease, the elderly in my village? Who is informing them? Also, information hardly reaches villages the same way it reaches urban areas. It is limited (due to lack of resources, gadgets and data), filtered and sometimes not delivered at all. What my mentees have resorted to is reading with each other through WhatsApp and those with grandparents disseminate the information to them this way in their homes. We perform what we call “School Your Elder”. This is helping many grandparents and people over the age of 50, this is a reading session where a young person pledges to read with an elderly person to help them become less anxious about the pandemic while acknowledging its severity.

My daily coping mechanism while in Kuala Lumpur is reaching out to a few friends and family to make sense of how the situation is unfolding back home. It is not easy traveling, yet it is beautiful and insightful. However this gives one an opportunity to teach, learn, ask and observe. I love to engage with people and traveling grants me that, the  pandemic has taught me to think about a crisis as an opportunity to observe, stay calm, and not listen to respond. #Covid19 has taught me to bring back my voice for the public good. I am on my second week of Malaysia’s lockdown and facing a three-week extension to April 14th.

I continue reading biographies and autobiographies, watching less TV, making videos for my younger brother who is in his matric year and I try to assist with his schoolwork, plus every day at 6 pm, I gather to sing with the community I reside with. Some from their windows, balconies, and doors.  The message is, one is never alone. And people are calm and obeying the guidance given by the experts here in Malaysia, it is good to see people listen. I literally commit to sing with people; some I’ve never seen, most I don’t know their names, but we’re a community and that is what matters, teamwork. I’ve learnt that being compassionate and empathetic is more important than anything else. To be willing to bring about the spirit of active participation is a need in society. This crisis comes with so much uncertainty, one can feel out of control of things. Learning that the activities I participate in such as the singing with the community, is what is in my control at this moment. With so many unknowns, I have taught myself to learn what I can control and what I can’t. So there is still a positive side to this, it has brought about a sense of community building and the experience is a learning curve.

Relotegile is an Activator, writer/ founder of Sunshines Children’s Book Club, a non profit organization in education

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