Is it possible to write about our life and work in Kenya over the last two years, without using the word “Covid”? What we do and how we do it, has changed tremendously as a result of the pandemic.
On 13th March 2020, the first Covid case was confirmed in Kenya. Two days later, the President announced the response: all schools and universities were to close with immediate effect. A curfew was imposed from 7pm to 5am each night. Although, happily, we were never locked down in our homes and prevented from visiting friends and neighbours, for a while we were not allowed to leave Greater Nairobi. A week later, the international airport closed, and all borders were sealed. We were in Kenya to stay.
“… the international airport closed, and all borders were sealed. We were in Kenya to stay.”
Beyond official figures
The official figure for Covid deaths in Kenya is very low: under 5,000 for the entire pandemic. This is partly because the population is so young (half are under the age of 20); partly because so much of life takes place outside; and partly because only those dying in hospital are included in the official figures. Many were never tested or were too poor to go to hospital, so it is likely that many more have died than the figures show.
Currently 1.5% of the population is double vaccinated and 4% has had one dose. This is due to the shortage of Covid vaccines. Added to that, some fear all vaccines, which are thought to be a Western strategy to produce infertility and limit population growth in Africa. Sadly, among some Christians, there is a belief that there is a link between the vaccine and 666 (the number of the beast), and that anyway, if you have enough faith, you don’t need a vaccine – God will protect you.
Longing to be live in the classroom
All my teaching for the last 18 months has been online, via the dreaded Zoom. We love it, because it means some live interaction with students is possible, and we hate it, because it is nowhere near as good as being face to face, eyeball to eyeball, with students in the classroom. Why do students – usually so lively, passionate and eager to ask and answer questions and engage in discussions – become so very reluctant to unmute and get involved on Zoom?
And there are further difficulties. Students ‘disappear’ because the electricity has just gone off in their area; others have to go to a cybercafé to connect to the web, so aren’t free to contribute; some are at home looking after three young children (who are off school because of the pandemic) at the same time as being in class. It’s not ideal, but we persevere, longing for the day when once again we are back “live” in a physical classroom.
“Students ‘disappear’ because the electricity has just gone off in their area; others have to go to a cybercafé so aren’t free to contribute”
Despite the limitations of teaching online, there are still many assignments to do and to mark: assignments designed to make them search the Scriptures thoughtfully, so that they are taught, rebuked, corrected and built up in righteousness; assignments that are meant to fill their hearts and minds with glorious life-giving and lifechanging biblical truth; and that are meant to lead them to humble, joyful worship of the Lord.
And, despite the frustrations of online teaching, it’s always a joy to receive comments like, “That reading really challenged me”, “That assignment made me realise for the first time just how serious sin is”, or “I think I finally understand what that Bible passage is really about.”