Behind the Mask
COVID Memoir — Kenya
I am a high school junior from Denmark who moved to Kenya in 2019, after spending 12 years of my life in China. I still remember when the numbers increased in China; at the time, I wasn’t able to fully grasp how much lives had changed in the country, and how soon everyone else’s around the world would too.
It was not until April 2nd when Kenya had recorded its first case of COVID-19, and I remember it very vividly. I was on my last day during my work week alongside a physiotherapist at a clinic, when as soon as the first case was announced all the health staff were frantically called into a meeting. Although I was not there for the Ebola outbreaks in Africa, it was clear that they had done this before and they understood how important it was to prevent the outbreak, because if an outbreak did occur, it would be extremely detrimental due to the lack of proper sanitation.
After our work experience we had our April break, and by the middle of that week we learned that school was shutting down and that the airport was closing on Sunday. Anticipating that the situation was only going to worsen, my family booked a flight for Denmark, even if it was unclear whether my dad would have to stay for work. We left and he followed a day later.
The airports were quiet and we had three seats on the plane for each of us. Once we landed in Denmark, we quarantined for two weeks and during that time I started my virtual learning. When we had completed our quarantine, we moved to my grandparents farm where we stayed with them and my older brother who had graduated the prior year.
Over the seven months we were there, I completed the second semester of sophomore year and completed my end of year exams online. Due to the time zone difference, I started school at 6:30 A.M. and finished at 12:30 P.M. In the afternoons, I would take care of my grandparents' farm by feeding their cows and pigs.
After the summer holidays, I started my first year of IB online. My school in Kenya was given permission to start early, with only seniors and juniors on campus. So I flew back to Kenya, and met my dad who had already flown back and been there for six weeks. School started using a hybrid system because one third of the students were learning remotely. By the start of 2021, all students were expected to be back on campus. As a protocol, we are required to check our temperature, wear masks, social distance, use hand sanitizer, and wipe our desks off after every class. Since the start of in-person instruction on campus, we have had about 15 unrelated cases. Overall, I would say I haven’t had it that bad and I feel for the people who were and are stuck in small apartments or who have lost loved ones.
— Sam Kay, 16