Namibia: Making the Most of the Lockdown

WITH schools closed and part of the country under lockdown, many families face long confinement together.

Parents are faced with the daunting prospect of finding creative ways to keep their children busy for hours on end, all while in the confines of their homes.

Many parents will have to ensure they keep their children healthy, fit and educated, while somehow simultaneously fitting in working from home.

At a press briefing on Friday, president Hage Geingob announced that the 21-day lockdown on the Khomas and Erongo region, which comes into effect at midnight on Friday 27 March, will soon cover the whole country in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

With 11 confirmed cases, Namibia has put countrywide state of emergency regulations in place.

Families now have the overwhelming task finding fun and stimulating ways to ensure their children do not suffer from boredom while trying not to die from Covid-19.

Talking to The Namibian on Monday, Windhoek resident Michael Shikongo said he has been keeping his nine-year-old son busy with art projects, movie nights and games.

"It is important for him to play in the yard so that he gets some sunshine and fresh air. Since he can't play with other children from the area and he is the only child at home, he quickly gets bored," he said.

"We try to play with him, but we can't keep up and we also have work to do," he added.

Shikongo said his household is currently in the "calm before the storm" state.

"We have somehow managed to stay entertained. We are relaxing and bonding, almost like in a mini holiday. Very soon we are going to run out of things to do and get tired of seeing each other all the time. It is bound to happen, and it will be interesting when it does," he said with a slight chuckle.

With the imposition of serious measures over the past few weeks, many Namibians are quickly having to come to terms with the seriousness of the coronavirus.

As the uncertainty of the foreseeable future unfolds among citizens, so do fear and panic among families.

For those who live far from their loved ones, the situation is more frightening.

A mother who asked to be identified as Alina, said being a parent in the middle of a global pandemic is extremely difficult, especially if the children are far away.

Alina, who lives in northern Namibia has two children living in Windhoek.

She stressed the importance of consistently checking on them, saying: "It is difficult for parents to have peace of mind right now. You're constantly thinking of whether your children may have been exposed."

Alina said in the midst of all the bewilderment, her family has become closer over the past few days.

"We would text and call every other day but now we call each other every day. It is important that I hear them talk and laugh so that I know they are okay," she said.

"We tell each other what we've been doing during the day. Although the circumstances are not favourable, I am loving the new family dynamics," she continued.

Nyanyukweni Petrus (26) has stopped going to work due to the lockdown.

She said she has created a schedule that incorporates fitness and mental stimulation to get her through the days ahead.

"I wake up at a certain time, I do a yoga challenge every morning and I make sure I stay productive by reading on things that interest me but that I never had time to read about," Petrus said. Petrus said having a schedule helps her stay accountable and makes her feel she still has order and control in her life.

She said she and her family are trying to stay active and have taken up gardening to "avoid going crazy" from staying indoors for too long.

"It's keeping us pretty occupied. The beauty about this is that we are outdoors, we're staying active and one day we will sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour while reflecting on these crazy times," said Petrus.

She said she and her family also plan to start baking together.

"Tomorrow we're going to try baking banana bread for the first time. I'm really excited about that," Petrus said.

Approached for comment by The Namibian on Monday, clinical

psychologist Claudia Martins stressed the importance of using the lockdown to reconnect with one another during this time of tension.

She proposed that people should find ways to connect better and do stimulating, fun activities at home with their children.

"Now we have to do it differently. No more social media, no more electronics. Let's sit down and do a puzzle, let's bond, let's answer questions and have conversations that we would not have been able to have," said Martins.

She, however, said the lockdown could put a strain on relationships as people are not used to spending so much time together.

Martins thus recommended that individuals give each other space to work on themselves and engage in their own activities that stimulate them and then reconnect at various times in the day, if possible.

"Being in each other's space and probably not communicating as effectively as we should can make us feel uncomfortable or feel a little more short-tempered than usual, which can actually break some relationships," she said.

"If there were problems within relationships initially before the lockdown, a lot of that will come out much more now during lockdown," she added.

Martins further advised people to filter certain pages on social media and stop following all the news outlets they usually follow, to avoid having an influx of information that could cause a lot of anxiety.

According to Martins, being over-saturated with information is "counterproductive."

"People want to be productive by knowing all the information, thinking the more information they know, the more they can be in control of things. That's actually not the case. In fact, it's counterproductive because the more information you get, the more it scares you, and makes you feel more anxious, and the less control you have of the situation," she said.

She suggested that people rather watch the evening news on television.

"You will get all the information you need in that news bulletin. If there is breaking news or important information that comes out, you will find out," said Martins.

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