Every city has stories of legends. Remember the movie urban legend?
When you travel to a new city and find a knowledgeable tour guide, you are assured of great local stories about legends and heroes of the past. The stories will not only scare but entertain and uplift your spirits. The tourism industry, especially museums and traditional sites, is not complete without stories like these and more.
Six years ago, I visited Thailand’s big city, Bangkok, and the lady tour guide kept us hooked about the local stories of legends – kings, monks, and the country’s tradition. “In this compound, you are standing in a spot where the greatest monk ever lived, did the gravity-defying one leg stand up for six hours non-stop!”
Such a statement makes you surprised at the superhuman nature of the monk. The fact you cannot manage to stand for just 30 minutes, you wonder what kind of a man the monk was to do one leg standups for not four or five hours but six! We took a bus ride out of Bangkok city deep to the village. There too, we found attraction sites and monasteries with great stories of local heroes. I was surprised to see so many other people visiting these villages almost over 500 hundred kilometres from the city!
In our village, we had stories of night dancers. To discourage us from moving at night or making noise, they said night dancers took over the village at night. And once you meet one, you would die. It was scary. We lived afraid of the legendary night dancers and never dared to move out of the house at night. No wonder in Kampala we built toilets in the bedroom, pun intended.
The COVID-19 is like the legendary night dancer. Everyone has heard about one, but no one has ever seen one. You keep speaking about it in the third person.
There seems to be a lack of transparency in communication over the extent of the problem. Is COVID-19 very deadly to justify keeping people away from the places of worship where many find hope and belonging? Is COVID-19 more deadly than hunger and ignorance?
As we enter the third quarter of 2020, we must get real – learn to live with the virus. Unfortunately, many people are entering the mode of reckless abandon, and that is the worrying trend.
When I visited the village mall in Bugolobi, my body temperature was taken with the temperature gun by the Askari/ guard on the co-drivers side. I don’t know who does on-going quality checks on these guns because sometimes the readings vary significantly, but as long as I am let through, I don’t mind. Still, my colleague, who was in the driving seat, was not measured. The lady security just waved him through. At the restaurant, it is the responsibility of the patrons to wear face masks. No one enforces. I visited downtown but could not stop to transact. The physical distancing rules and the essential Ministry of Health standard operating procedures (SOPs) are not practiced. I do not think that people know the “why” of the SOPs. Some of the SOPs are just not practical for the ordinary person. It costs about Ugx. 3,000 (the US $0.8) to buy a disposable face mask. How many Ugandans can afford such a mask daily? Even washing a re-usable one is not easy as many people may not have money to buy soap.
Seeing how most supermarkets, food markets, offices and restaurants are congested, and the way people do not mind about physical distance and face masks, makes you remember the good old days of the village night dancers. Everyone talks about them, but no one has ever seen one!
To those who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19, may God give you the strengths and willpower to overcome and thrive. But what do you say to those dying of hunger and loneliness due to COVID-19?
Do not make COVID-19 a global legend. Churches, mosques, and all places of worship should be allowed to operate subject to standard operating procedures. If people are allowed to fly subject to specific procedures, why not allow people to pray subject to guidelines?
For education, it is a puzzle, and that is what makes it interesting. The government should consider partnering with technology giants like Google, Microsoft, and HP, for example, to provide a low-cost platform to facilitate country-wide digital learning for all levels. HP may provide a low-cost computer per family, which could be subsidized by the taxpayer. The local players like MTN and Airtel could help provide free Internet access for the defined technology resources. The silver lining in COVID-19 has been the fast-tracking of technology adoption across the board. Let us embrace this new normal.
That way, COVID-19 would be defeated.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.