Seeing the coronavirus through the eyes of our children

In this Sunday, April 19, 2020 photo provided by Anil Sanweria, his sons, Uddhav Pratap, 8, left, and Advait Vallabh, 9, help in the kitchen during a nationwide COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown. The brothers believe the lockdown should continue for a year. “They shouldn’t reopen till the time there are zero cases left,” the younger Uddhav Pratap says. (Anil Sanweria via AP)

These are children of the global pandemic.

In the far-north Canadian town of Iqaluit, one boy has been glued to the news to learn everything he can about the coronavirus. A girl in Australia sees a vibrant future, tinged with sadness for the lives lost. A Rwandan boy is afraid the military will violently crack down on its citizens when his country lifts the lockdown.

There is melancholy and boredom, and a lot of worrying, especially about parents working amid the disease, grandparents suddenly cut off from weekend visits, friends seen only on a video screen.

Some children feel safe and protected. Others are scared. And yet, many also find joy in play, and even silliness.

Associated Press reporters around the world asked kids about living with the virus and to use art to show us what they believe the future might hold. Some sketched or painted, while others sang, danced ballet, built with LEGOs. A few just wanted to talk.

In the remote forests of northern California, one boy, a Karuk Indian, wrote a rap song to express his worries about how his tribe of just 5,000 will survive the pandemic.

Their worries are matched in many places by resilience and hope, for a life beyond the virus.

This is life under lockdown, through the eyes of children.

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LILITHA JIPHETHU, 11, SOUTH AFRICA

Lilitha Jiphethu has made a ball out of discarded plastic grocery bags to keep her amused during the lockdown. She and her four siblings play with that makeshift ball almost every day in a small scrub of ground that they’ve fenced off outside their home.

The 11-year-old screams as her brothers throw the ball at her. Then she laughs, picks up the ball and throws it back at them. This happens again and again.

Lilitha’s house is like hundreds of others in this informal settlement of families just outside Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city. It’s made of sheets of scrap metal nailed to wooden beams.

Like many children under lockdown, she misses her friends and her teachers and especially misses playing her favorite game, netball. But she understands why school is closed and why they are being kept at home.

“I feel bad because I don’t know if my family (can catch) this coronavirus,” Lilitha says. “I don’t like it, this corona.”

She prefers singing to drawing and chooses to sing a church song in her first language, Xhosa, as her way of describing the future after the pandemic. She misses her choir but takes comfort in the song’s lyrics.

She smiles as she begins. Her sweet voice drifts through the one-room home.

Source: Associated Press – MARTHA IRVINE