I’m currently helping to provide directions for the National Union of Ghana Students (under the leadership of Isaac Jay Hyde) in rolling out an emergency project called the National Student Food Bank aimed at mitigating the possible implication of many students facing challenges in accessing three square meals because of the indefinite closure of schools and now lockdown.
For some, their return home has worsened the entire household’s struggle in keeping soul and body together because their absence to the city to school, brought financial relief to their families. Others are also trapped in their various hostels managing the small olonka of gari left.
Truth is, this group of people are only a small part of some 1.2m people in Ghana who experts warn may suffer more due to food insecurity if proper support systems are not put in place during this lockdown and possibly, an extension.
Whilst I’m privileged to render such services to the Union in these trying moments of our student history, I remain saddened because of the many challenges students and some households may be going through in these times.
For instance, the issue of bundles for online lectures, conferences and academic materials has topped the complaint chart for the past three days.
As of Tuesday, 31st March, 2020, about 300 recharge cards were given out to students after going through the process of verification and provision of proof of online lecture schedules.
I know given more opportunities, every student in Ghana will request for more because of how magically data gets consumed in these times of ‘corona-inspired e learning and assignments. It was with mixed feelings that I observe many students throng online to request for bundles. Alas, it was a good one since their expenditure on credit at least will be cut down.
More than ever, I’m deeply concerned about the many untold stories of many students, citizens, kayayei, among others who could be destitute in these times. Just like many, I have lived in a boarding house outside Accra for 4 years, hence, my view of the world hasn’t been limited to my father’s backyard and compound.
I relate to such periods where there’s absolutely nothing to eat, and your guardian wasn’t ready to visit because there was no money. In my time, may be, ‘dinning’ would’ve saved you but now that there’s partial lockdown, schools and major shops closed, chances are you may not get access to any proper food, our your favourite food, talkless of the money to go buy it. In these boarding days, resorted to gari on all the days until the home choo finally came.
Also, before today, we saw how the streets of Accra were choked with people who didn’t have anywhere to go or sleep. However today, all of a sudden, almost all of them have left the streets. Where are they? Do they have the basic essentials to make them survive?
Well, thinking the times of gari was over? No, the gari market rather picked up ahead of the partial lockdown owing to the above. Almost everyone who called to check up prior to the lockdown suggested gari as first the first commodity I should get to stock my cabinet. And I know for many students like me who don’t have silver-spoon background will have their first week in lockdown characterized by gari – gari on the first day, gari on the second day and gari on the third day.
But if we’re to keep healthy, away from malnourishment, diversifying our meals in these lockdown times, will be very helpful to our general immunity.
It goes without saying there’s more to be done to provide support systems for students and the destitute especially in these times because can you even imagine what one would experience when he or she finally decides to visit the loo after three continuous days of consuming gari under lockdown in a slum which has only one public toilet?
Columnist: Kabu Nartey