CORONAVIRUS: ILLUMINATING THE GAP BETWEEN SOCIAL CLASSES

CORONAVIRUS: ILLUMINATING THE GAP BETWEEN SOCIAL CLASSES

A Sudden increase in infected people, enforcement of curfews and cessations, extra precautions and now deaths have been the norm in the recent past. One would hope and pray that each day is the day there would be reports on no new cases, better yet get an estimate of how much longer to hold on! As the days go by, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be getting worse with even scientists being unable to approximate when this unrest will end. We are all terrified to think about how this will affect us, health wise and economically. Has the corona-virus further widened the gap between the social classes?

Majority of those affected so far happen to be the upper middle-class folk. From people in Rongai to Kileleshwa and now 14 of our members of parliament. However, all these people have one thing in common, they can access good and quick health care services for their families and themselves, but what about their house help and driver from Umoja?

WHO stated that two groups of people will be highly affected by the virus: the elderly and those with low immune systems due to prior infection by other diseases. However, they failed to mention the third group: lower social class.

When word spread that the Deputy Governor had tested positive for Covid-19, fear mushroomed among the coastal citizens as they pleaded to the government to have the official quarantined. The plea became even more dire after it was hinted that the Deputy Governor had infected his personal driver, who later also tested positive for Covid-19 virus.

People of the Coastal region complained that they did not want to pay for the arrogance and ignorance of one privileged man. Residents of Mshomoroni, home to many of the lower social class, stated how they were uneasy and angry with the ex-deputy, since they would not be able to practice social distancing, a luxury only the rich could afford, if ever they were infected with the virus due to their clustered living arrangement. Similar views were noted by Kibera slum residents.

3 weeks ago, the Kenyan government took up the same safety precautions as the other nations dealing with the pandemic and shut down all school institutions and later work institutions. Stating it was better if the physical buildings where people would meet were shut down and work would continue from home, to decrease any further spread.

White collar workers were deemed lucky, as they could continue with their jobs and still expect pay. Manual workers and others like drivers, saloonists and street vendors were uncertain of their fate. They rely on daily work to fend for their families and themselves. Those not in white colour force have been seen risking their health and safety because they were not as fortunate as the others. Beauty and cosmetics may not be a priority to the government, but the money the workers of those businesses make is used to spend on priorities like food and water for them and their family. ‘The grind must go on’.

Schooling itself has become a hustle. Private school students and those with access to the internet are set to begin their online classes as of next week. What about students with no access to the internet because of poverty or location? How is the student in ‘shagz’ supposed to catch up with the rest of the school going Kenyans? Should they stop their studies all together and await some miracle to stop corona so they can go back to their normal routine? How effective will the radio be in some ‘no signal areas’ noting that radio stations don’t cover all primary and high school studies and certainly not university lectures.

Your local Mama mboga risks her life daily to ensure you get your vegetables and fruits, while she has something to bring home to the family. Handling cash that could possibly be contaminated has become a scary reality. The ‘switch to use Mpesa’ to pay for cabbage worth Ksh10 or Ksh20 does not make sense to her. She risks it as a need, a necessity not a want.

Members of the lower social class are deadpan terrified of this virus. The fear that goes through their heads, cross checks with their economic capability.

Panic is one of the most common human responses to danger. It can be expressed through panic shopping, blasting on social media pages or wanting government interference when they sense a possible disturbance in their community. The elite and privileged 20% of Kenyan citizens will be more at ease because they are aware, they have access to the amenities to keep on surviving peacefully.

But the remaining 80%, how are they supposed to panic shop when they have no funds to even shop?

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Elizabeth Otieno

Elizabeth Otieno

Ray of sunshine personified! Creative content creator and writer.