Impact of Covid-19 on Socials in Rwanda
Covid-19 has disturbed the social life in Rwanda and worldwide. We were told and taught over the years that hugging, shaking of hands, and all other signs of greetings were reflections of discipline, respect, and love of the other human person. These formed our Rwandan culture and so many other cultures worldwide and they were among the first things to learn from our families, the building blocks of Rwanda. Arriving at school, these behaviors, far from being abandoned, were again enhanced and strengthened to the extent that pupils and students were punished by their elders whenever pupils came across them and left without the shaking of hands or hugging or just saying hello or mwaramutse (good morning in Kinyarwanda), or mwiriwe (good afternoon) for the sake of greetings.
Apart from those signs of greeting, visiting the other human person was also a sign of love, a sign of social life. Social life is one of the dimensions of life at the absence of which a human being would ceases to be a social animal, so to speak. For a human being is supposed to have these four interconnected, intermingled dimensions of life, viz, intellectual, spiritual, physical, and social dimensions. If one of these four collapses or if it is absent, then there is a high probability that the remaining three would also be affected in one way or the other. So, in visiting the other person, for example, one would be trying to complete both oneself and the one who is visited. When visiting the other, one would carry something to share with them even if it is not an order or an obligation. But social life implies sharing. In Rwanda and in some other countries, human beings share ideas, life, food, drinks, houses, sometimes beds, etc. The importance, the insight, or wisdom of sharing was and still is exemplified or embedded in the following Rwandan proverb: “Akanwa Karya Ntiwumve Kavuza Induru Ntiwumve.” This proverb which may be literally translated as “a mouth which eats silently when it shouts out for help, you do not listen,” entails how our forerunners needed one another and how they valued the culture of sharing and support (Kayigana Karori 43). And they left it behind themselves for the sake of their subsequent generations. Therefore, sharing is not very recent. It is as old as the history of humankind.
However, with covid-19, that culture has been somehow shaken. Now these teachings, these virtues and values, have been turned upside down. What used to be bad is now taken to be good and vice-versa; what used to be abnormal is now normal. What was encouraged is now discouraged. All those values which were used to be embraced, are now to deter. In this new life, in this new way of living, in this era of Covid-19, there are no more hugging, no more shaking of hands, no more kissing, no more visiting to friends and families and so on. The famous songs we sing nowadays are coronavirus or covid-19, covid-19 testing, number of the new cases of coronavirus, closing of the schools, number of deaths from coronavirus, face masks, lockdown or stay home and stay safe.
Face masks and lockdowns are very dangerous to moral and social lives, though important in medical situations. They are very dangerous in the sense that they prevent us from facing the reality such as the cries of the poor, the cries of those who lost their jobs due to coronavirus invasion, the cries of the hungry and the sick who have no one to feed or to visit them, the cries of the students who have nowhere to get Wi-Fi or internet bundles to attend the online classes or even those whose locations have no access to the internet and electricity at all to keep their gadgets, if any, charged and online (connected). Many people were not ready to be locked down or to be domesticated as one domesticates other animals whose shepherds are always there to care for them. Too many people were relying on their daily income and some others depleted their savings just at the very beginning of the lockdown. So, it is not surprising that somebody who died of hunger is mistakenly taken to have been killed by the covid-19 scourge. And most of the people are busy enjoying themselves in their respective homes and communities while others are probably starving and dying. For some of those, the meaning of the lockdown is seemingly not the protection against the spreading of the covid-19 outbreak, but to tell the marginalized people to mind their businesses. There are some people who can stay at home the rest of their lives in case the lockdown remains, but there are some others, especially those who were relying on daily income to eke out their living and beggars who cannot even manage to stay indoors at least two days. For these kinds of people, life is tough. And they probably need help from their fellow citizens. In this regard, those who are very virtuous i.e. temperate men and women of good will are putting their effort together to come to the assistance of those marginalized people.
Several bodies and institutions are working very hard to address this pandemic. Researches are being conducted in trying to discover the effective vaccine and cure of this pandemic, albeit not promising enough. New cases continue to appear in high numbers; deaths continue to increase; and new measures are put in place. Some countries and even those powerful ones have deployed their efforts to calm down the situation, but they did not at all master the covid-19 outbreak; they did not manage its spreading i.e. covid-19 has proved itself beyond their control. According to Bower, Jonathan et al., “containment efforts have been effective; however, an impending global recession means the economic impacts of the pandemic will continue to be felt in Rwanda.” Moreover, “despite promising stepwise policy measures taken by the government of Rwanda and how the population is positively responding to these measures, some sub-sectors will be negatively affected by the COVID-19 though at different levels” (Alfred R. BIZOZA and Simeon SIBOMANA 1).
Therefore, what if this is our new way of life in the next decades to come? What if this pandemic fails doctors? What if we learn to live with this corona virus instead of fleeing ourselves from it in our homes? Or what if we develop adaptations to it? Would it be an evolutionary process going on whereby those who would survive are those who will have developed certain traits for better adaptability to the situation? In other words, is it going to be a matter of the survivor of the fittest? It might be the case that one stays indoors and gets killed by hunger or one goes out and be killed by corona virus. Of course, not everyone might be killed by hunger in case the answer is deemed to remain in lockdown. Some people have got reserves but no one knows how long these reserves can sustain their wellbeing. But what about the poor people who cannot stand all the measures put in place against the covid-19 outbreak for at least one month without going out?
Bizoza, Alfred, and Simeon Sibomana. "Indicative Socio-Economic Impacts of the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Outbreak in Eastern Africa: Case of Rwanda." Available at SSRN 3586622 (2020).
Bower, Jonathan et al. “Rwanda’s response to COVID-19 and future challenges.” International Growth Center (IGC), 19 May, 2020.
Kayingana, Karori. Imigani y’ Imigenurano n’Inshoberamahanga Bisobanuye. Impremerie Papeterie Nouvelle, Kigali, 2007.
Writer : Claudine Uwizeyimana from University of Rwanda