Seeing light at the end of the tunnel

By Faiswal Kasirye

It is 6:30 in the morning and I am running around campus thinking about what to do after working out. The place is quiet, calm and empty and I feel like I am alone in a big lake looking for tilapia fish. On a normal day, the place would be filled with a ‘worm’ of students and a multitude of vehicles.

However, the lockdown has made it difficult because all the students are away and most parts of the country are on lockdown because of the movement control order (MCO) that is implemented by the government to reduce the spread of this new pestilence. 

During this lockdown, I wake up every morning at around 6:00 hours to conduct my morning prayer, thereafter do a few chores, exercise my body to stay strong and healthy as I pass the time to wait for my lunch time prayer (Dhuhr) after which I head for my lunch. 

A quick nap comes in handy, then Asr prayer after which I rest as I wait for Maghreb and Isha prayers. Of course there are several other things that I do in order to kill the too much time that I have right now since almost the entire country is on lockdown mode.

The question is, is that all we can do? I have the answer! But most importantly ‘YOU’ have the answer to that question lingering in your head right now!

Staying at home, the best and appropriate solution

Due to the deepening of this pestilence, we all agree that staying at home is so far the most appropriate solution to the prevailing pandemic amidst us, and therefore, people from all corners of the world are increasingly becoming creative on how to cope with this situation of staying at home.

News has one important characteristic to which if misused, may make you infamous or famous. In other words, social media can make you famous or vice versa. It sounds better when it is out of the ordinary. When it is broken, it gives a kick like the one a smoker gets from pulling at the end of a joint. No wonder many times news broken on social media is not exactly true because urgency and the need to shock and awe people comes first before authentication.

With the pestilence amidst us, the reverse of the previous argument is true. The internet rushes us to get disheartened because most people are quick to post ‘failures’ associated with COVID-19.

The failures make better news because they increase our fear and insecurity and test our mental strength. It sounds better when they say we are facing an apocalypse or a contagion like the world has never seen before. They are telling us that the official figures of the infected and the dead are low but the truth is, what is on the ground might actually prove to be a different matter. That people are dying every minute from this deadly pandemic.

We all agree without doubt, that this virus should be taken seriously because it is highly infectious and spreads rapidly. People are dying and more get infected by the day. However, this should not deter us from using this very opportunity during this lockdown to look into ourselves and what we can accomplish during this period.

We might need to reflect on other conditions which have lived with us before like cancer, tuberculosis, HIV/Aids and other deadly viruses but also, even hunger kills far more people on a daily basis in some developing countries. But no one reminds us to panic that the world is going to end. Those telling you that it is bad for you to stay at home are ignoring the fact that you are lucky because there are people in some parts of the world who do not have homes and would be grateful to go back there given a chance.

Nevertheless, staying indoors has not only brought many closer to their families, but has saved them the money they always spend eating and drinking out in those expensive and luxury places before going back to their families’ home. 

A 2017 World Health Organisation (WHO) report designated Malaysia as one of the most obese countries. This exclamation was not reached just by looking at the size of the people who live here. It involves a number of surveys to understand what makes this issue dire. You will find out that one of the reasons is eating junk (fast foods) as opposed to a healthy meal prepared in a healthy and conducive environment which one can call ‘home’. 

Benefitting from leisure hours

With the MCO in play, people are stuck home with their partners, children and other family members, whereas there are those who are still quarantined at the different centres. And truth be told, it is not a very thrilling experience being stuck in one place with a number of loved ones while also battling with the uncertainty that comes with this pandemic.

People are worried and as a result they are dealing with anxiety and tension. There are even those who will tell you they are bored at home as a result of the movement control order (MCO). But if we are to face it, neither worrying nor grumbling about being trapped at home will help matters.

Therefore, you need to find a way of remaining well-balanced and productive while at home, otherwise, you may lose your mind.

For example, initiate some games with your children like mowing the lawn. If I may ask, when was the last time you played with your children? Some parents will tell you that they never play with their children as they are always either traveling or busy working in their respective work places. But now that the children are also stuck with you at home, therefore, utilise this opportunity and play with them.

Kill two birds with one stone, by mowing your lawn while having fun with the children. They probably are not too interested in what it takes to get the lawn in shape as long as they can run and play on it, but there are a few things they can help with that will create that bond in the process.

If possible, plant a fruit tree with your children. Gardening with children is not only great fun but also has many benefits such as potential weight loss and management, decreasing the risk of heart disease and slowing climate change.

Gardening with your children is a great way to teach them how to take care of things, help them understand where food comes from and teach them about nature. It also provides the perfect combination of skills and tasks to address your child’s development.

Additionally, literacy skills can be part of gardening too. Learning the names of different plants and reading what their growth requirements are on the seed or plant is a literacy activity.

Now is your chance to help them learn new things while having fun too. If the children are too young to mow, they can rake the grass and pile into heaps ready for disposal.

This lockdown is also allowing us to get closer to our celebrities than ever before. The rich and famous too are staying at home and giving us a glimpse into their world by filming and posting them onto their social media platforms from where we pick and have a glimpse of them. This previously was hard to do because of the little time they always claim to have.

The Guardian newspaper reports, that “Broadway diva Patti Lupone, for example, has given a tour of her surprising basement during this lockdown, showing off her juke box, one-armed bandit and pinball machine. Ellen DeGeneres complains that her table isn’t big enough for a 4,000-piece jigsaw and Arnold Schwarzenegger feeds his miniature horses indoors”. 

These and many other celebrities are doing the same because this is what is left of them to do in their world of showbiz in order for them to stay relevant especially in this lockdown that has eaten up the whole world.

There are many things one can do during this period not just to pass time, but beneficial to their lives. We ought to also put it at the back of our mind, that this is not the end of the world.

Spending quality time with family

The enforcement of the MCO to stay home as a bid to curbing the spread of the deadly pestilence has managed to bring families together. As it is, families are spending more time together than ever before. No one is allowed to leave home for work nor for a scheduled flight. This is a rare opportunity especially for the kids to bond with their parents. 

This gives an opportunity to the parents to get to know their children’s behaviors as well and try to evaluate their levels of education. This can be through quiz and the different norms as they see fit.

But as we do all the above, we ought to understand, that home environment is different from a school environment in terms of resources, expertise and the social environment. Trying to emulate a school environment may not always work out in your favour. Some parents may not feel confident about teaching the subjects taught in schools, while others may equate teaching to lecturing, but lecturing as we know it is one of the many ways to help children learn.

In fact, parents can take this as a good opportunity to know their children better and build a stronger relationship with them especially during this lock down.

Utilise the time for education

Most universities are right now closed in a bid to enforce the MCO as ordered by the Malaysian government. This was done to decongest the school environments from being attacked by the deadly pandemic. 

However, a number of them also have the options of conducting classes with their professors and teachers via virtual means. This allows them to stay connected to the school environment even when they are home. There are those who just closed their campuses without looking at that as a viable option but most importantly because they had no option at the time.

For example, for those who are quarantined at the different universities, they have an advantage of using this time to finish all their assignments and the future endeavours that they had set in motion in their year plan and were supposed to be done during the course of the semester. 

This helps them to widen their thinking capacities as they have a lot on their plates. One would say, that during this lockdown, it is an opportunity for many to write as many chapters of their theses as possible, accomplish article writing, learn to do the different analyses but of course all this is done with guidance of their professors because they have availed themselves to be consulted even during this period of time because they are going through the same things though at a different level.

As students, it is your duty to keep ‘disturbing’ your lecturer until you get what you need from them to help you further your career. This is your time to rise up and do more of what is expected of you, do research that is relevant to your academic field and I can guarantee you, that you will not regret ever being told to stay home. 

As all this is happening, you should minimise the use of social media and dedicate more of your time during this lockdown to making it worth wherever you are. Make a schedule for your daily activities to guide you through the day. This will help you to stay focused on your goals.

Lecturers also ought to do a lot during this period because as students go through their assignments, it is important for the lecturers to avail themselves to guide the students through this trying times. They are as well reminded to write more during this time, because they always claim to having little time to write as they are always preparing class materials for their students. Now this is the time for them to rise up and act as examples to their students. 

Learn something to benefit economically

The lockdown is training us on matters of stocking enough nutritious food and saving part of the household income for another day. This is one of the many things that will help in teaching us of the saving culture. In fact, I can conclude, that the spending culture of a family has now decreased somehow because everything is curtailed so they tend to save more than what they spend.

We should also be glad to know that about 80 per cent of those who are infected by coronavirus will show mild to no symptoms at all. They may not even need to go to hospital for treatment despite the fact that they have the capacity to infect others.

Then the number of people who survive after infection of the disease is about 95 per cent, which is very high compared to cancer and many other fatal health conditions. The most important measures to stay away from the virus are readily available. Soap and water to wash off the virus that one may have come into contact with while touching surfaces on which it may have settled. This ideally does not require rocket science, nor sacks of money or to be administered by a trained health professional to teach us how to do it.

This pandemic has taught about the importance and practice of personal hygiene. Many have during this period learnt for the first time how to properly and thoroughly wash their hands frequently with soap and water as well as sanitisation. The same applies to having a balanced diet and good nutrition which have been recommended by doctors as one of the ways to defeat the deadly virus.

Additionally, because we have been told about higher survival chances for people with good immunity, all over a sudden, people are eating more fruits and vegetables than ever during this period.

COVID-19 outbreak has showed nearly everyone in the public and private sector on the importance of equality in public health policies and measures locally and globally. It has highlighted the non-discriminatory nature and universality of most epidemic diseases. Now that borders are closed, no one, however big or rich, is allowed to go and encroach on the health systems developed elsewhere.

Additionally, we are likely to see increased investment in infrastructure and motivation plus safety of health personnel back here and elsewhere in the world.

This new virus has also sent scientists and researchers worldwide to work on finding a cure or a vaccine to the current situation.

That is a good thing for the stock of knowledge and the advancement of the boundaries of human medicine. We can’t downplay this frightening challenge that is facing humanity. But we have to appreciate the opportunities that have come along like the silver lining that comes with every dark cloud.

Seeing light at the end of the tunnel

Therefore, let’s continue to stay safe by adhering to the guidelines provided by WHO, the government and all other health professionals. Try to encourage others to do the same. Avoid spreading fake news and statistics plus stigmatising those who you assume are sick and spreading the virus. Instead, encourage them to seek medical help in case they show symptoms. Coronavirus will set mankind back but humanity will rise to even greater horizons after all.

I believe we can do more for ourselves during this lockdown. We should grab this opportunity and utilise it before it is wasted. After all, there is light at the end of this tunnel. ***

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