The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies hosted a webinar that allowed young people to voice opinions on a variety of political, social and environmental issues and challenges they face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was facilitated by CCS research assistant Ms Hleliwe Khumalo, and featured Education academic Mr Sphelele Ngubane; Sociology lecturer at the University of Free State Ms Nombulelo Shange; Assistant Professor at the School of International Relations and Politics at Mahatma Gandhi University in India Mathew Varghese, and Masters student in Development Studies Mr Ndumiso Mbuthuma.
Shange, considered an expert on issues faced by the youth, examined gender-based violence (GBV) and scarcity of resources and opportunities for the youth in South Africa. ‘The pandemic has exacerbated and further highlighted what was already there. It has made it far worse in a lot of ways for many families,’ she said.
‘The youth feel a sense of being incomplete and believe they are denied basic economic, social, and cultural rights, and are forced to utilize poor healthcare facilities, amid the increasing unemployment rate and rejection of free education by the government. Consequently, material conditions are likely to affect one’s sense of self.’
Ngubane reflected on ‘grassroots issues youths have faced from socio-economic and socio-political structures in their basic education in South Africa to being amongst the least important sectors of societies. How do people who come from such spaces succeed?’
Varghese addressed structural and historical peculiarities that created a well-grounded primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems in place in Kerala, India. This makes the system exceptional within the country. But at the same time, the high density of population, age pattern and comorbidities can still pose serious challenges to the healthcare personnel in Kerala. He was concerned that the new wave of COVID-19 would cripple the healthcare systems across India as it would affect a large number of people with comorbidities, particularly the elderly.
‘Kerala’s public health intervention and governance strategies could put the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) below 2% and the basic reproduction rate below 1% during the initial phase. Despite welfarist policies like these, systemic issues pertaining to low public health support at the larger national level can compound the pressure on every single state, including exceptional ones like Kerala.
Mbuthuma outlined how Government responses to COVID-19 such as curfews, restricting gatherings, social distancing, travel bans as well as restricted business operations, affected students.
‘When there was a curfew and a no-gatherings rule in place, students were prohibited from forming study groups and the University was shut down. With social distancing there was less physical contact with friends. There were even restrictions on business operations resulting in student unemployment as UKZN offers work opportunities to students.’