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With Covid-19, kindness not just a virtue

Sunday July 12 2020
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Ms Pauline Ngatia (right), director, marketing and communications at Aga Khan University Hospital,Nairobi, donates hand washing soap and sanitiser to Ms Cecilia Njoki, a vendor at the City Park Market to help in the fight against Covid-19. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By LAURA OMBOK

Kindness is probably my favourite thing. I like kind people. I like kind words. I like kind actions. I can watch clips online about kindness all day long, crying happy tears as I see people light up and lift when they give or receive kindness.

When the Covid-19 pandemic landed, I shed more happy tears as individuals, groups and businesses stepped up to help and, thus, spread kindness. I thought, perhaps, despite the hardships we all face, it could leave a positive legacy ... of kindness. I was hopeful that the government would put the people first, business put purpose before profit and neighbourhoods build stronger, more supportive communities.

WhatsApp and Telegram groups popped up, all designed to keep communication open and the people connected. There was such positivity in standing together, keeping one another strong, while we endured various levels of difficulty — financial, health or emotional.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Slowly, though, fear and negativity seem to have overtaken kindness. My timelines and messaging are a testament to the spread of misinformation, myths and conspiracy theories about Covid-19. Blame and shame shift as quickly as desert wind; one minute it is all China’s fault, then it is the government, Big Pharma, airlines, truck drivers, media.... Information is shared with no research, verification or thought for who it could damage or may be damaging.

I am fortunate enough to have a child in a private school; a privilege our family works very hard to afford. We did thorough due diligence to ensure that the school had the facilities and culture that were the right fit for our child and family. Of course, since schools were closed in March, not all the offerings are available; so, we have been offered a discount.

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I am grateful that TSC teachers are still being paid, school grounds are maintained and the online learning programme works. But my WhatsApp beeps and vibrates to a never-ending tune of negativity that squarely blames the school for every woe — no matter how much it offers.

POSTING MISINFORMATION

I have seen wealthy parents opportunistically try to have fees further reduced, despite what that would mean to teachers and the overall upkeep of the school. I have seen parents sabotage the school by posting misinformation on social media channels.

 I have listened to parents saying their children are falling behind and then do nothing to ensure the child attends live lessons or does the tasks provided.

In my neighbourhood, a rumour of a possible positive case soon spread to every road, lane and compound. Their every move was judged, they were berated for their lack of responsibility and their behaviour. Thankfully, the neighbour had not contracted the coronavirus.


I have spoken to people who think the pandemic is a hoax, a conspiracy theory of sorts, and others who have underlying health issues, or their families do, and they fear for their lives. I know many more who just think we all must get it at some point, it is just like the flu, and so live like there is no danger.

Where we can, we need to support our communities and the less fortunate. And support is not just providing financial relief; it means not adding to another’s difficulties with words, blame and judgement. It simply means being kind.

Mr Ombok is a public affairs consultant. @_Laurahh

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