Bongani felt like he was in a fairy-tale trance as he sat glued to the television screen, watching the President as he announced the 21-day lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus. Mixed emotions filtered through the living room, from a sprawling despair on his father’s face, to an indifferent shrug of the shoulders from his mother, to a bright innocence in his younger sister’s eyes.

“Maybe it’s for the best,” Bongani’s father said, glancing at everyone who was still awe-struck by the news.

Although they did not openly say it, the whole family secretly admired the fortitude that their father exhibited, absorbing any crisis with the ease of a sponge. The lockdown entailed that schools and most workplaces close down in order to curb the proliferating virus. Borders had already closed down in order to reduce the spiralling cases of infected people around the world.

“Hey Bongani, it looks like you’ll be the first stream of Matric learners to do Grade 13,” Musa, his younger sister, teased.

“Hush Musa, this is serious,” their father said, reprimanding her. “We have to be extra careful. Safety is of utmost importance now, for the sake of everyone. Just remember my children we are not stuck at home, but we are safe at home. Let us utilise this time to the best of our ability, because in the midst of every crisis lies an opportunity. Plus, at least you’ve learnt a new word to add to your essays at school, ‘quarantined’, because that’s how we’ll be spending the days that follow,” he continued, chuckling as he cast a mollifying wink towards his concerned son.

While sitting there, Bongani imagined how life would be at home, especially with his pestering sister there. Sibling rivalry was at the core of many of their debates and quarrels, and he wondered how he was going to withstand it.

Both of Bongani’s parents worked shifts based work, and he sympathised with them on how they would cope financially. Boredom, on the other hand, was gnawing at him like a squirrel on a tree stump. Television and radio were abuzz with appalling figures of people who had been infected around the world, but then he remembered his father’s words: ‘In every crisis lies opportunity’.

At first, the phrase was just an ambiguous combination of words, but as he washed the dishes that night, those words rang in his mind like an awakening school bell. The statement meant to comfort his family also activated motivational ideas which had been dulled by the ongoing pandemic. The economy had been reported to have suffered an acute decline because of the situation, and he wondered how he could help his parents make ends meet.


Tell us: How did you feel when you first heard about the lockdown due to Covid-19?