When staff members from the Catering and Halls departments received calls from the University, asking them to resume duty, they knew it wasn’t business as usual. The University had been forced to break following the Government’s directive on the COVID-19 virus, necessitating all non-essential workers to work from home. As a result, and following the magnitude of the pandemic countrywide, some facilities in the University were designated as quarantine centers. For this reason, it was apparent that staff members from the two departments were to be present to serve those under quarantine.
For one month, tests were conducted on those in quarantine by Ministry of Health personnel, an exercise that ended Friday April 24, 2020 when the quarantine centers were closed after all the persons tested negative for COVID-19, to a collective sigh of relief from all the staff who were attending to them. But that’s not where the story ends.
Since its infamous dawn in the country when the first case was discovered on March 13, 2020, COVID-19 has dealt its unfair share of misery, despair and loss. Much as a lot of effort has been channeled towards combating the disease and educating the masses on the same, stigma still persists. Recovered patients are treated with suspicion, and caregivers and medics handling COVID-19 related cases are not spared either, which is why the University staff who were attending to the quarantined persons equally bore the same brunt of stigmatization, and even trauma.
It was for this reason that the University management together with a team of counselors from the Dean of Students office organized a counseling session that enabled the staff to share their experiences throughout the quarantine period, challenges faced and recommendations for future endeavors.
“Some of the quarantined individuals were not careful, and did not observe social distancing among themselves and with our staff, even before they got tested. This was very frustrating and scary,” quipped one individual.
“Others were rude to us, especially during the first days. It was mostly because they were also frustrated, but things improved thereafter,” said another.
“It was difficult interacting with people after work, because of the notion that we were handling ‘watu wa Corona’. There has been a lot of stigma,” decried a staff from the Catering Department.
All the challenges notwithstanding, the staff kept on doing their due diligence and providing their services. According to a staff from the Catering Department, what kept them going was simple; “These people are our brothers and sisters, and more importantly, fellow human beings.”
On his part, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration, Prof. Bernard Ikua, thanked the staff members for their dedicated services throughout the duration. He assured them that their recommendations would be looked into by the University management for further action.
“It takes a lot of dedication, patriotism and compassion to effectively execute your duties like you did, and on behalf of the Vice Chancellor and entire University management, I sincerely thank you. We remain committed to the plight of our staff especially at this time, and that’s why we organized this important meeting,” he added.
At such uncertain times, it’s more important for us to remember the unbreakable bond of humanity that collectively binds all of us. No matter where this pandemic sails with us, we must never forget our humanity, we must never forget to practice kindness, he concluded.