In response to the COVID-19/SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, the final-year Medical class at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine formed an Anti-COVID-19 student group.
This was initially a small group of 40 people, spearheaded by a committee of seven that discussed the issues contributing to the high and fast rate of transmission and brainstormed initiatives to help control the spread of the virus.
The group identified lack of awareness and knowledge deficits, particularly in rural areas; myths associated with the disease; resource limitations preventing basic hygiene measures; incorrect use of masks and gloves; and vulnerable groups at high risk, particularly the elderly, young and HIV infected, as critical challenges in fighting the pandemic.
Recommendations were made around community education and raising awareness. Some group members also expressed willingness to be part of ward-based caregiver teams to help explain the concepts of hygiene and social distancing to communities using pictures, illustrations, art and media.
This proposal was communicated to UKZN Professors; Mosa Moshabela (head of the UKZN COVID-19 War Room) and Andrew Ross (Family Medicine specialist and co-ordinator of the Family Medicine programme at the Medical School). The two professors expressed willingness to engage with the group and permission was sought from management and the Department to do so.
The student group was also approached by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to participate in national public surveys in relation to COVID-19. Seventy-seven UKZN student volunteers were trained and conducted telephonic interviews in partnership with students from other South African universities.
‘This has been a great opportunity and a learning curve for all involved. It has been wonderful working with the HSRC on this project and engaging with community members. We are proud of our contribution to a more inclusive, community-centred response to this pandemic. We are grateful to Professors Moshabela, and Reddy, Drs Nadesan-Reddy, and Ngidi and the entire HSRC team for providing us with this opportunity,’ said Miss Cheshni Jeena, member of the student group and sixth-year Medical student at UKZN.
Words: Lihle Sosibo