One very striking thing about the world wide Covid 19 crisis, I think, is the hugely differing effects it is having on different people. For some the crisis is absolutely devastating. For those coming down with the virus, particularly those with underlying health conditions, the effects are dreadful, our thoughts and prayers go with all those suffering from the virus, their family and friends. And the economic effects on many people are dreadful, losing income and jobs, with friends in Africa reporting large unrest among people unable to go out and about in an attempt to earn enough of a living to eat that day. And for people who, for whatever reason, home does not represent a safe and secure place, having to spend hugely more time indoors can bring all kinds of stresses and strains along the way.
But for people with secure incomes, with reasonable size numbers for the number of people living in them, and sufficient access to computers etc. the need to take things a bit slower can actually be quite a benefit. One of my students reported that she is getting rather more work done now than normally, which makes perfect sense to me that this should be true of some. If you have a comfortable place to work, sole access to a computer with a wifi connection, parents and carers who are supportive and have the resources to help, then I can see the benefits from normal.
So, where do I fit in the middle of this? No immediate family members have been effected, I have a stable job which is continuing without question, I'm not needing to drive to and from school everyday which is saving me a good bit of money. The model that my school has adapted has been to use Office 365 to upload work for students to do and then to keep in touch with them through the day, have to say, for software which is not specifically for school use, it is working remarkably well. In practice, it puts the onus on the student to get in touch with the teacher, not easy to manage students not working, which corresponds to national stories about how students are getting on in these times.
But there is one thing here. Getting into the routine of setting work first thing in the morning, and then also contributing to the departmental store of lessons which are then uploaded in due course. But the problem for me is the actual lesson time. We're on call for the students - which is, of course, assuming that they are able to have a real time wifi connection which isn't necessarily the case. Some students do get in touch and ask questions, but to a large extent I'm not hearing from them during lesson time, nor do they respond immediately if I try to provoke a reaction from them. So I'm not occupied full time or anywhere close, but I am on call. Which I'm finding difficult, it feels like I'm wasting time if I'm not doing something additional - but finding it difficult to do anything substantive which I then need to drop immediately if students do get in touch. And this increases as the day wears on.
So, one thing I've been doing in random moments over the last week or so is learning more about Africa. The starting point for this was getting a Facebook message from one of my Kenyan friends who had marked himself as safe, which immediately raised the question - safe from what? Then to discover that there have been huge problems in East Africa, on top of Covid 19, with flooding and locust invasions. Once you know about these issues, it is very easy with Google to find out about them, but the UK news has remarkably little to say about them. We can be remarkably insular about what we worry about, particularly at these times. Of course, this is true of me as much as anybody, I'm concerned with East Africa leaving large stretches of the world that I don't know anything about at all.
So, with the help of this very useful website I've been finding out more about Africa. Mission one: be able to identify all African countries on the map. Not starting from scratch, of course, but I now know where Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, are which I couldn't have told you a few days ago. Mission two, which is where I'm at at the moment: be able to identify all capital cities in Africa. Noticeable how many countries which have a coastline have a capital city on the coast which I suppose make sense. But now know a large number of things I didn't know a few days ago. Do you know the capital city of Burkina Faso? No, nor did I until very recently, it's Ouagadougou. Say it aloud, give it a rhythm, it's not so difficult to say then memorise!
Mission 3, which I've made a bit of a start on: learn something more about these countries. Horrified to discover that Cameroon (west coast, bordering Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, capital, Yaoundé) is in the grip of major unrest. Originally a German colony, split between the British and the French after the first world war, then given independence as a single country but with major conflicts between the French speaking majority and the English speaking minority. And these conflicts are going on right now. Let's pray for this troubled country.
Of course, there's only so much that any one person can take on board, can't know everything about everything or indeed worry about everything. But glad to have a focus at this time, and wanting to learn more, then to be able to pray, for our African cousins. Next thing: know the heads of state, I'll keep you informed on my progress. Thank you for reading, stay safe!