Published: 24 May 2020
Malome is completely stumped.
“Haai malome, it’s not fair. My daughter is in grade 1. There has not been any learning and teaching since the start of the lockdown. How does the school expect me to continue paying fees as if things are normal? What does a six-year-old know about Zoom meetings? Labantu badlala ngathi [we’re being taken for a ride],” exclaimed my niece over the phone.
She is one of many parents whose lives have been rudely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the new normal. Everyday headlines reflect the sad reality of deepening poverty and how we need to reprioritise. Spare a thought for restaurant workers who have not been paid since the start of the lockdown over a month ago.
A friend got a WhatsApp message that his movie house company won’t pay salaries at the end of May. Clubs and bars in South Korea have had to be closed again after one person allegedly infected 50 fellow clubbers after the lockdown was lifted.
There was a message doing the rounds on social media purportedly coming from a former premier who accused teachers of being lazy and selfish. The ex-premier ordered thousands of teachers who are rightly concerned about their wellbeing and their charges’ health of putting their interests above national needs. Teachers told the former provincial boss: “Andizi.”
A buddy who detests manual labour and enjoys the services of a gardening and pool-cleaning service to keep his lawns in pristine condition even in winter was mulling not paying because of the halted service. “I get enough exercise fending off blows from racist corporate South Africa and don’t have the energy to be pottering around the garden, my bro,” is his perennial response when questioned about his couch-potato lifestyle. He wanted my view on the drastic step he was considering and I fired back with questions he could not answer. Spare a thought on landlords who had been renting out rooms, houses and flats to students. Some use the rent to supplement their pensions. This is the new normal, which reminds me of the need to start emergency funds and get side hustle as soon as Cupcake lifts the lockdown.
Back to my niece’s urgent request to read through the agreement she signed to put her daughter at a Rosebank-based private school. I told her that teachers still need to be paid. Like the rest of us, they also have bills to pay. Some schools pay municipal accounts, rent, and have to budget for armed response, gardening service and general maintenance.
But I did not have an answer on how to keep her daughter occupied while she juggled work, household chores, and home-schooling activities. “Malome, I only have two hands. Reatile [the child] is a handful. By the time I’m done cleaning after her, I don’t have the energy for work. But my boss still expects high-quality work even when I do it from home.”
- Mafata is a Joburg-based communicator and he writes in his personal capacity