In soccer, the most important position is arguably that of the goalkeeper. This is due to the goalkeeper’s ability to see the entire pitch and to guard the team’s territory. In the case of the coronavirus, we can say the scientists are the goalkeepers. But the youth is definitely the midfielder. This player has multiple roles – to defend, attack and pass the ball to the striker to score and win back the ball from opponents. The new COVID-19 variant, SARS-COV-2, found by South African virologists has shown to be indiscriminate as to who can get infected – this means that young and old are at risk. The difference is however, the youth can tip the scales in our favour towards breaking the chain of infection.
COVID-19 has rewritten the social rulebook – most notably for the youth. It has impacted aspirations , dreams and hopes that come with matriculating and gaining greater independence. The 2020 matriculants find themselves in reverse roles. With the majority of our elders still at risk and the high number of our population with co-morbidities, our youth have become true care-givers and helpers to their families. Being the midfielder in relation to the pandemic is why they are now even more important to the future of our country.
Today’s young people are highly literate, attuned to social realities as demonstrated by the #FeesMustFall movement and judging by their entrepreneurial spirit, bold and determined. While it is a difficult time these are the traits that can be the powerful strikers against this disease.
With the imminent vaccine roll-out, there is plenty of misinformation making the rounds on social media – platforms the youth are adept at. Their ability to see through the misinformation and educate their elders can greatly assist in promoting vaccine truths and uptake. South Africa’s vaccine rollout plan is set to reach 40 million people, allaying fears caused by unfounded theories goes a long way and the youth can take up that role to help people make informed decisions around their health.
It is understandable that social distancing and being required to isolate is frustrating. The closure of social and entertainment spaces leaves many feeling lonely and bored. Many feel robbed of their youth. However, if the youth adheres to a social compact, that is to be patient and cooperate with these measures then what they yearn for will be realised much quicker. Even a few hours of fun cannot be risked for the sake of those around us. What we should strive for is a future where we can live with the virus safely in ways that allow us more socialising in the future. We need a game plan – and that entails knowing our opponent, trusting in our arsenal and timing when to attack and when to retreat. Like in soccer.