Lockdown 2020: The Teen Experience

Avene Makana (age 18)

By Avene Makana 4 May 2020

How do you even introduce e-learning to millions of homes which still have no electricity – how will they even afford data, asks Avene Makana. (Photo: supplied)

My aunt Nono is able to assist her boys with homeschooling, but what about child-headed homes or kids who stay with illiterate grandparents, or even parents who are not technically capable? How do you even introduce e-learning to millions of homes who still have no electricity – how will they even afford data?

Daily Maverick asked some high school pupils if they (with the permission of their parents) would share their experiences and thoughts on lockdown and the Coronavirus.

As I pen my lockdown experience as a South African teenage mom who is also a second chance Matric candidate, let me admit that Covid-19 landed like an unidentified flying object from another planet. 

I stay with my mom, my 21-month-old son, and my aunt Nono with her two boys aged five and nine. I think we are one of the few fortunate families to have a shelter, unlike the millions who stay in informal settlements. The Covid-19 lockdown has shown us flames as this small family of seven. 

My aunt is in the bracket of unemployed South African citizens. She is usually home when she is not doing odd jobs here and there. When she is free, she enjoys preparing meals, watching my cousin’s school rugby and cricket tournaments, and a glass of wine to destress as she always defends herself from home executive duties that include school homework and granny duties as well when my mom is off duty. 

The lockdown has strengthened family ties because we stay indoors and spend more hours together, and that also means we get to know more tricks and moods too. We fight about the TV remote control, who gets to bath first and the boys invade each other’s space. Getting to know the unusual TV remote hiding places that we end up forgetting and laugh once we finally find it. 

The fights get physical with the boys and there’s lots of punishment in a day as our three-bedroom apartment gets cleaned and untidy several times in one day. I have less time to study for my supplementary exams because I can’t go to a library or attend a study group session due to the lockdown regulations. I also have endless fights with my mom as my data finishes off quicker than before.  

The anxiety kicks in when I stress about things that I can’t understand when I study. Most of the times when my son is tired of playing with his uncles, he knows how to reach me as I lock myself in the bedroom to avoid distraction, he shouts my name and bangs the door handle. That irritates me to the point of just opening the door and attending to him. 

It’s better when my mom is around because they play together and I also get jealous too, thinking he is getting all the attention. I’m sure in most families, lockdown regulations are not even adhered to as it is strange to keep the distance indoors, but washing of hands and covering sneezes with elbows is the new thing that I can assure you we practice. Don’t ask me about touching of the face as the boys play rugby and soccer in our tiny lounge or in the guest bedroom, which another family that stays 20km away from us does not have. 

This is South Africa, where most people suffer due to inequality and a high unemployment rate that is caused by corruption as most metros are battling to provide basic services like water and sanitation, housing, and healthcare. How do you expect a family of seven that stays in an informal settlement of 100 shacks to adhere to lockdown regulations? These families share 10 water taps and a bucket system plastic structure toilet that gets serviced once a week by municipality waste collectors. 

How do you expect them to have time to wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with the water that they save, as in most cases, the taps run dry due to drought? I’m talking about Alexandra – a township that is close to Sandton where the legendary Nelson Mandela first stayed when he arrived in the city of gold. I’m also talking about Makhanda Municipality, the city of Saints in the Eastern Cape where Rhodes University is situated. I have not even mentioned the rural areas where there is no infrastructure at all. 

The virus is going to show us flames because our country has not even tested a quarter of us, except for cases of people who have had contact with Covid-19 infected individuals. President Cyril Ramaphosa is urging people to adhere to lockdown regulations, but 80% of South Africans are not taking him seriously. The SA National Defence Force is being roped in to assist law enforcement officers i.e SAPS. Most people are stressed and compelled to adjust to a new lifestyle of staying indoors, going back to basics of home-cooked meals. 

My aunt Nono is able to assist her boys with home schooling, but what about child-headed homes, or kids who stay with illiterate grandparents, or even parents who are not technically capable? How do you even introduce e-learning to millions of homes which still have no electricity – how will they even afford data? 

A few weeks back, I was asking my mother questions about the scourge of domestic and gender-based violence since the lockdown. Most township people are scared to assist their neighbours with such cases because our country has no list of offenders that police can check – also homes with  protection or peace orders should be checked on. 

I wish our basic education curriculum had subjects like community policing and development, psychology, criminal law, corporate governance, compulsory entrepreneurship and home nursing, especially from Senior Primary school level so that we can assist in our homes and communities in making better lives for all. 

Our country is dealing with a lot and it will take time for most of us to realise that we are not ready for Covid-19. These are my independent views and if I had time, I would pour my heart out. But I have to attend to my son now. This lockdown has strengthened our bond in many ways. May God bless my mom as she is about to wake up and go to work. I pray for her safety all the time when she leaves the house as she has no other option, but to go to work. I refer to her as Kumkanikazi (Queen). DM

Avene Makana had not expected to be a teenage mom, nor had she thought she would be living through a pandemic. She is worried about the majority of South Africans who cannot social distance and struggle with hunger. She is also grateful for her mother who she calls her Queen.

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