Impact of COVID-19 on the urban girl child in remembering 21st Feb National Youth Day
Covid-19 has not only affected our economy, but has also affected our moral and social fabric especially in crowded communities, our culture (Ubuntu) is at stake and on crossroads. All things being equal, we expect the youths to contribute positively in national development and channeling their energies to productivity. The commemoration in Zimbabwe’s 21st February National Youth Day came at a time when the national is bleeding due to the lockdown and every operation brought to a standstill. The youth and the elderly are mostly affected and hence need for strategic mental health session to help alleviate to the disaster. This holiday honours Robert Mugabe, who was the first prime minister of Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 until 1987, then the country’s 2nd president from 1987 to 2017.
Youths are our current and future leaders and time should not be wasted doing nothing. It is our cherished hope that once the L2S+Zimbabwe youth hub is set that we will engage with the youths more frequently. Young girls and boys - primary school-going children - are also not spared from the effects of the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Actually, they are the most vulnerable and affected in all this crisis, notwithstanding the mental health challenges these children will inherit. As schools are closed, most activities that kept school-going children busy are at a standstill. In high density suburbs of Mutare, especially Dangamvura and Sakubva, love affairs amongst children have become the norm of the day. Under the guise of doing extra lessons, they have turned into organised prostitution. Young children are now indulging into unprotected sexual activities. Parents are affected mentally as they seem to have lost control of their own children in all these activities.
Child headed houses are now used as "bases" for these sexual activities. The outcomes that might be experienced from these love affairs will be disastrous. Early child pregnancies, sexual transmitted diseases and trauma may be the aftereffects. Letters to Strangers+Zim has a great task to engage these youths on sexual reproduction health rights and also mental health programs. Mental health is also being affected through these scandals. Young kids are affected by being exposed to situations they cannot control. Parents and the children are being affected emotionally and mentally. With parents being stressed about how they could handle such situations and the discrimination they would face. They are not fully equipped to handle the situation. Parents also need counseling. As a patriarchal society, women will be blamed for failing to raise their children well. Societal expectations even in a pandemic like this put pressure on parental guidance for which the parents have no control.
The children, especially the girl child, will be greatly affected by being exposed to situations beyond their control. There will be more challenges if the girl child happen to fall pregnant. Other cases of suicide, drug abuse, etc. might rise as well as a result of this crisis at hand.
The longer children are out of school, the higher their chances of permanently dropping out of school and their likelihood in facing dire problems including child labour. After extended breaks from school, many children simply never return. The Zimbabwe Government should come up with measures that protect everyone, and one of the key objectives needs to be to support learners, teachers, and school communities to prevent the transmission and spread of Covid-19 and to facilitate safe return to school as schools start reopening. The long-term impact of extending the school lockdown risks ever greater harm children, their future, and their communities.
To support L2S+Zimbabwe in their efforts to broaden educational outreach among Zimbabwean youths, consider making a tax-deductible donation to Letters to Strangers today. Note L2S+Zim as your beneficiary in the donation comments so we know to direct your support directly to the Zimbabwe Chapter.