Ruth Butaumocho African Agenda
The world has been numbed by the devastating effects of Covid-19 sweeping across the globe like a ferocious fire.
From the first Covid-19 case that was recorded sometime last year in China’s city of Wuhan, the world is beyond itself with alarm, uncertainty, and fear.
Fear of getting sick, death, job losses, physical isolation from loved ones and just not knowing what comes next, as figures of new infections continue to grow.
By yesterday, the world had recorded an alarming figure of close to 84 000 deaths across the world.
It is worth noting of course, that it has not been all doom and gloom in all recorded Covid-19 cases, because of the reported 1 455 519 positive cases 309 825 people have recovered from the virus, a clear affirmation of a modest recovery rate if all necessary health care is availed to those who would have tested positive.
But probably what is worrying everyone now is the rate at which people are dying daily, with no indication yet, when a vaccine or a cure will be found.
For instance, the number of people who have succumbed to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has now surpassed the number of people killed in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The virus’ death toll in the US as of midday yesterday was at 12 902 exceeding by nearly four-fold the 2 977 victims who were killed in the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, and four hijacked planes on September 11 in 2001.
What is even more worrying is the indiscriminate manner and the speed at which it is decimating populations across the world, giving little or no time for families and health workers to care for patients.
From international celebrities, clergy, politicians, health workers to ordinary people, the effects of the pandemic have been devastating across the globe.
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson who is currently battling for his life has become the new face of the global pandemic.
He is in intensive care.
Such narratives paint a gloomy picture on the global impact of Covid-19 and how prepared nations are in dealing with the virus at any level.
The United Nations (UN) is equally shocked by the effect of the virus and its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently described it as the “biggest challenge” since World War Two.
It has already estimated the loss of up to 25 million jobs around the world as a result of the outbreak and an up to 40 percent “downward pressure” on global foreign direct investment flows, bringing a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past”.
Zimbabwe, being part of the community, has not been immune to the impact of coronavirus as it has recorded 11 Covid-19 positive cases and two deaths, including that of prominent and promising broadcaster Zororo Makamba.
Realising the gravity of this health concern, Zimbabwe has taken necessary preventative measures including a 21-day lockdown to minimise the impact of the virus.
However, while the nation is gripped with anxiety on how the coronavirus will pan out on the national landscape, a new trajectory of Zimbabwe’s capabilities has been emerging on the horizon in the last few weeks.
Life has taught us that sometimes the most beautiful experiences that people put together are drawn from one’s deepest fears. From our most poignant painful experiences and our vulnerabilities.
Within the mesh of tears, heartbreaks and an undefined fear of how Zimbabwe would deal with the impact of Covid-19 should the figures surge, institutions of higher learning across the country have given the nation something to smile about, through the manufacturing and innovation of essentials needed to fight against the virus.
With globally reported shortages of imported gloves and masks, several universities and tertiary institutions have since embarked on the manufacturing of these essentials after it was realised that Zimbabwe could not compete on the global markets for basics that could easily be manufactured locally to meet the demand.
The best innovation that was to emerge from the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) was the manufacturing of a ventilator, with the institution indicating that it had the potential of making 40 such gadgets per day. Since then, other tertiary institutions have since followed suit by producing sanitisers, gloves and masks, as they join the fight against Covid-19.
Chinhoyi University of Technology and Midlands State University have started producing face masks, while the University of Zimbabwe and Bindura University of Science Education are producing sanitisers.
These initiatives clearly show that the country’s several institutions of higher learning have the capacity to innovate, produce and feed the supply chains that for years have been hinging their businesses on imports.
Speaking during the handover of sanitisers manufactured by Great Zimbabwe University, GZU’s Vice Chancellor Professor Rungano Zvobgo poignantly stated that institutions could not sit on their laurels and needed to innovate
“We are in a state of war, which must be fought on all fronts,” he said.
“The manufacturing of sanitisers by our School of Natural Sciences is GZU’s attempt to deal with the Covid-19 virus.”
The nation takes pride in the fact that institutions of higher learning are not only producing graduates who just regurgitate theories from books, but are able to operationalise what they learnt, given the necessary resources and support.
The robust initiatives that the universities are taking affirms the decision by the Government to adopt the 5.0 model design which puts more emphasis on production of goods and services by universities and polytechnics.
Looking beyond Covid-19, the trajectory that universities and colleges have taken should be supported in its intents and purpose to ensure that the projects grow beyond institutional walls to sustainable industrial projects able to create employment and produce for both local and export markets.
These are indeed difficult times for everyone across the globe, but it is in such stretches and circumstances that best innovations are made as people struggle to find solutions to their own problems.