COVID-19: Through the eyes of an average Nigerian student.
‘’We don’t have any plans, no lecturers have reached out to us to tell us what to read, there is no online class. By the time we resume, Unilag will rush us.’’
This week, Pandemic Diary interviews a student of the University of Lagos. We get an insight into how the current pandemic has affected the average Nigerian student, the setbacks and possible silver lining.
Tell me how we got here.
I am a student at the University of Lagos.
The first we heard of COVID-19 was when it became a thing at Wuhan, China. We discussed it as students in my hostel but we never saw it as something that could hit home till we saw the news of how it was spreading around the world.
I remember, there was a day I saw on Twitter how rapid the spread was, and I prayed that Allah should just keep us safe. The next day, that’s when I heard that COVID-19 hit Nigeria *laughs*
That was when major paranoia started. People rushing hand sanitisers and face masks. I had a face mask but I didn’t have a bottle of hand sanitiser. It was on a Friday we got the news. On that very day, sanitisers were sold out at UNILAG, so I went to Yaba.
You went all the way to Yaba to buy hand sanitiser?
Yeah, I bought hand sanitisers for my friends and me, the price was crazy but I just closed my eyes and I bought it. When I returned, I distributed it amongst my friends and I was paid back.
So, things were still cool, classes were going on fine. That was how Unilag announced that the upcoming convocation ceremony had been postponed.
The next Monday, we were on our way to class for a test when we got the news that the ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strike had begun. So for the first week of ASUU strike, COVID-19 was in Lagos but we didn’t see it as a serious thing.
During the second week of the strike, DSA (Dean of Students Affairs) sent a message on Friday saying that all students should prepare to leave before 4 pm the next day.
The very next day?
Exactly. I already planned to leave that Friday because of the virus and of course, we weren’t going to have classes. All these happened between March 7th and March 20th. On March 20th, I was already home, today is March 31st, I have been home for 11 days.
We don’t have any plans, no lecturers have reached out to us to tell us what to read, there is no online class. By the time we resume, Unilag will rush us.
I was going to ask that question. Looking backwards and then forward, how do you think this will affect your education?
Looking backwards, I was glad about the ASUU strike. But looking forward, this virus is going to make things difficult for students. We don’t even know when it will end, we don’t know what we will meet when we resume, we don’t know how the academic calendar will be affected. We haven’t heard anything from our lecturers, there is no communication whatsoever for online classes.
You know how we have this document for GST (General Studies) that has everything you need for the exam? I was expecting some of our lecturers to do the same, compile their course-work and share on the group chat, it’s not rocket science.
I mean, we are not students anymore, we are just in-between life.
I understand that you are interested in current happenings, how do you think the government handled the situation?
Honestly, I am impressed with the government of Lagos state. It feels like SanwoOlu is making up for the Okada ban. The only mistake made was the late closure of the airports and the spread from one state to another. The federal government should have banned incoming flights and interstate transportation. Now it’s almost everywhere, not every state can handle it as Sanwo-Olu has done.
Tell me something interesting; your transition from home to school.
Actually, before leaving school, I had written my strategies; my mental coping strategies. I called it home coping strategies, things that will keep me grounded when I get home.
To tell you the truth, that was not needed because we have help now that makes all the difference for all of us. The responsibilities at home are now divided. Although for an average student, I can tell you that it is not going to be easy. For example, my roommate is from a family of 5 and she is the one that is relied on for domestic tasks. She didn’t want to go home. She also had a rift with her mother before coming to school and her mum had not forgiven her, so she was looking for ways to avoid going home. Now she is home and she is surviving.
How did your typical Nigerian mum handle this pandemic?
My mum is handling it well. She doesn’t do all those ‘drink palm oil’. She is enlightened about the virus and keeps up with the news. She stocked up the house about three times for us.
How scared are you? How are you taking this?
I’ve had about three incidents when I thought I caught Covid19.
I was on a bus, someone coughed in front of me, another coughed beside me. All through that day, I felt sick.
I thought – Yes, this is finally it. How am I going to break it to my family that I have the virus?
Is that you Rona?
*laughs* The other time, it was malaria I had to treat. The point is we see people recovering and people dying, it’s not a death sentence. It’s not something that should strike irrational fear.
The thing is you have to be aware that if you put yourself at risk, you don’t know the underlying factors present in you.
For example, I heard of a woman that was discharged and left the hospital with pneumonia and sepsis.
I’m very conscious of the fact that if I put myself at risk, I will be affecting other people. My brother is asthmatic and has a history of pneumonia so his lungs aren’t the best. My mom is a senior citizen and I wouldn’t want to experiment that with my mother. So, I am in-between knowing that it’s not a death sentence and being wary of catching it because it can’t be good for those around me.
I am taking the middle course, I am not so afraid, neither am I nonchalant about the situation.
You’re in your early 20s. How has this changed your perspective on life?
We are not unique.
Now I see, we are not unique in any way. We are like other generations, helpless. It makes me think of the deaths occurring in Italy and Spain. This life is fickle, honestly.
I used to think that because it’s 2020, the world has gotten to a level of advancement, in the sense that things like COVID-19 should be treated in one week; just find a cure, let’s move on with life.
A lot of people feel that Covid19 has halted life. I just want you to know that it was bound to happen, and it happened now. There is nothing special about it happening in 2020.
There are a lot of people that are unsure of whether they will find something to eat tomorrow because of this pandemic, don’t just think of yourself, think of how unprivileged others are.
Also, this is the time for people to realise that capitalism isn’t it, we should add some socialism to it; look out for our neighbours.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you, bye-bye…. and wash your hands!
Interview by Faridah Bakare