As the COVID-19 induced lockdown began on the 30th of March 2020, SAYWHAT took a giant leap forward to intensify usage of its online platforms like never before. Prior to this, our online communication platforms such as the Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp were being used to complement physical gatherings till COVID-19 came and changed the way of doing business!
As online programming became the new normal, SAYWHAT became more innovative and crafted new ways of continuing with its programming throughout the COVID-19 induced lockdown without being hindered by the absence of physical gatherings.
SAYWHAT has since rolled out numerous activities as a way of engaging the students and youth and the outcomes of the programmes have been amazing. The programmes included COVID-19 Awareness Competitions which got some overwhelming responses from the students. In the video competition, students were supposed to submit short videos sharing information on what COVID-19 is, where it originated from, how it spreads as well as ways in which its spread can be prevented. The competition played a major role in increasing awareness on the COVID-19 pandemic amongst young people.
The video competition was followed by an essay writing competition to give students who are talented in writing to demostrate their skills. Students were required to submit essays on the effects of COVID-19 on young people’s lives on their sexual and reproductive health, socially, economically and academically amongst others. In total 187 amazing essays were submitted that listed various challenges young people had been facing, and this went a long way in shaping our programming so as to meet the needs of the young people.
SAYWHAT also launched the Meet the Expert programme, a programme that was broadcasted live on our Facebook Page aimed at creating an interface between students and Experts within particular fields. Amongst the Experts who graced the sessions was a Ministry of Health and Child Care official who tackled the topic on “Understanding Prevention: The Role of Students in the COVID-19 Prevention Matrix”. During the session students got an opportunity to get clarity on several issues regarding COVID-19 since there was a question and answer segment. Another session tackled on this programme gave insights on “How best can students utilise the lockdown period to their advantage” hosted by a Dean of Students from Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences (MSUAS).
Other interesting and insightful programmes broadcasted live on our Facebook Page were “Putting the Student on the COVID-19 Agenda” where lived realities of young people and COVID-19 were discussed during the Zimpapers Television Network Heartbeat Show.
An online Condomize Campaign was also launched in collaboration with a local artist, Trevor Dongo during his Thirsty Thursdays Show – where he plays his music while at the same time delivering messages on the importance of condomising to the young people. The programme was screened live on SAYWHAT Facebook Page during night time as a form of edutainment.
Numerous television and radio sessions were also attended both physically and through phone-ins at various media houses and broadcasted live (as shared links) on our Facebook Page hence ensuring there are no gaps in the provision of SRH information even during this lockdown period.
The WhatsApp platform was not left out as fruitful dialogues on various SRH issues continue to be discussed in various groups on a daily basis.
In addition to the online platforms, SAYWHAT launched its Call Centre on the 25th of June 2020. This was a much awaitedmove considering that the launch was targeted for end of March and had been disrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown. The Call Centre comes as an addition to our already existing communication platforms where instant verbal feedback on enquiries is provided on SRH issues amongst others. This is upon realisation that there are certain expressions that are not captured in text messaging but expressed more when verbal communication is made. Obtaining instant feedback is a plus!
However, after all has been said, the negative effects the COVID-19 lockdown has had on programming should not be downplayed since physical gatherings also had their own advantages. Online programming has a drawback of limiting the number of young people reached as some of the students do not have access to either data bundles, smartphones or even internet connectivity which lacks in some parts of the country. Physical gatherings and online programming work better together as buddies!