Written by: Afia Kwabiaa Baah, Class of 2022.
Editorial Board 2019/2020.
Corona Virus is upon us and we hope it is not here to stay for long.
Disclaimer 1: This is not another long article about what COVID-19 is or what it isn’t, with all the information going round it would be unfair to assume you aren’t well informed.
Disclaimer 2: This, again, is not another dreary article listing the cases of COVID-19 so far: the confirmed cases, the number of deaths and growth factor of new cases. That would be heightening the fear and panic going round already.
This article seeks to address not only the lingering thoughts in my mind, but also thoughts I am sure have forcefully made way into yours. Thoughts that have been rude enough to sit down without caring to seek your permission, and made themselves comfortable at the peril of your own peace of mind.
Well, liken these thoughts to the proverbial unwelcome visitor,Ghanaian-style, who makes him/herself at home in your own home, at your expense. Funny thing is this person has very good timing, always popping in just before meal times, with the quick, high-pitched excuse of “Oh, I just wanted to know how the family was.”
Oh, I digress.
Where were we?
So, this article seeks, again, to address the numerous questions that have come to mind, and I presume in yours too. Questions of how to feel at a time like this, what to think of, if this is going to affect our medical education in any way, how long the situation will last and the aftermath of it all.
The question of “What If.”
One of my final year friends shared his concerns with me: Final years (Class of 2020) were set to write their final exams in September and graduate this year in November.
“What if the indefinite suspension of lectures extends too long such that our graduation is shifted?”
The President of Ghana, in his address to the nation yesterday, called on retired doctors and nurses to return to work to help manage the crises.
“What if, we are called to help as frontline health workers, when extra hands are needed to help control the situation?”
For the rest of the junior classes, these are a few of theirquestions: “What happens to academic work if school is still closed down even after the presumed one month?”
“Should I still learn for my Interim Assessment (IA)?”
“What if we forget everything we have been taught, and come back only to have to prepare for an exam?”
“What if we are given no vacation at the end of the academic year?”
“What if exchange, (which has been cancelled for now), remains cancelled for a very, very long time?”
“What if my elective slot becomes redundant?”
‘What if all the plans I have made for my SCORE/SCORA exchange goes to naught?’
And I guess the funniest one of them all: “What if I go home and I decide I don’t want to do this medical school thing again?” Even though I am convinced humour is the sole intent of this question.
For the religious bodies on campus, one question going round is: “What happens to the calendars of the different dominations on campus?”
Already, some very important religious events were called off in line with what I call the ‘no-large-social-gathering-on-campus’ directive. Physical activities of religious bodies have come to a grinding halt. Almost every religious body on campus has had to quickly design alternatives.
I know of online prayer meetings with ZOOM and LINE applications and religious services using Facebook LIVE sessions. That is commendable, because in these times of despair, faith in God is one of the main ways of strengtheningmost people.
For international students, they are presented with an even more difficult situation. Imagine being in a foreign country where the dream of returning to your home as a medical doctor is the fuel that keeps you going, well, mostly. Now, COVID-19 threatens to shake this, just a little bit though, because lectures are suspended and everything is in limbo.
There are more questions being asked by everyone and anyone.
This system called education is hard.
Medical School is harder.
Dealing with medical school and the scare of COVID-19 is one of the hardest things to do. The wards aren’t safe for medical students and neither is campus. It would be almost impossible to just suspend lectures and quarantine medical students in their hostels, because first of all these are adults with their will and secondly the numbers are too large. And most importantly, closing down of schools is a national directive. Therefore, here we are, at home practising social distancing and other safety measures.
What to do at a time like this?
I have seen a number of suggestions on the WhatsApp statusesof some final years, for themselves and for their mates. They advise one another to work on their dissertations. One told me of how he plans to revise Community Health, Surgery and come back after the break to face Medicine. One told me of how this was a good time for her, because she had a lot of piled-up slides and was almost suffocating in the earlier heat of lectures and personal commitments.
I have seen a Facebook post from Dr. Blay, one of our lecturers who has advised us to study hard and catch up on ‘all the backlog notes’, a term familiar with most medical students. He advised us to also schedule some fun time, watch some movies and de-stress. Great advice so far.
I believe you should do that one amazing thing you have been putting off for a long time now. Maybe this is the silver lining to the dark clouds that have enveloped us. The time is now. Write that article, read that book, work on that idea. Who knows? Maybe all that your 2020 resolutions needed to come to pass, was a time like this.
The ‘What Ifs’ certainly outnumber the certainties.
The ‘Maybes’ outnumber the defined answers. The fears outnumber the hopes. The stress and the anxiety outnumber the calm. We are however not a people to be overcome totally by desperation, by despair and by fear. We will tell future generations about a time when we prevailed amidst the raging of a monster called COVID-19. Yes, I describe it like this because I know that’s exactly how some of us have planned to describe, or exaggerate this to our future children.
At a time like this, we will be calm and we will not lose hope.
We will not dwell too much on the dark, looming side to the question of ‘What If?’
Every question has two sides. We could look at the better side.
What if we decided to remain calm instead?
PS: I know I said this was not another COVID-19 health poster, but really, what is writing if it does not educate holistically? Here goes. Washing of hands with soap and running water cannot be overemphasized. Please stay at home unless completely necessary to go out. Also, social distancing is key. Check these posters out.