BY PROF DR HALIMU SHAURI
(Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pwani University)
Since the first case of COVID-19 was announced in March 2020 in Kenya, I have been keen on creating awareness, providing professional sociological advice and insights on mitigating COVID-19.
I am glad to mention that many people have reached out to me to appreciate; acknowledge they have been learning from home, of course without paying fees, some of the advice have seen the light of the day and got implemented.
I am glad to say that our efforts and those of others have put out Social Sciences on the map again, especially the discipline of sociology and to some extent Psychology and Anthropology.
These are disciplines, which one time we’re in public discourse in the country to be scraped because they were considered useless and a waste of public resources.
More precisely, focus was to be on science and technology. However, what the proponents forgot is that each an academic discipline has its subject matter and none is inferior to the other.
What makes people feel one discipline is better than the other is a matter of differential opportunity to put the discipline to practice.
Once the opportunity arises, then we realize how wrong we were to consider such disciplines as useless. I am among those of the Social Sciences thought so by the ‘useless school of thought’ who are now amazed by what we can do for society even in pandemics.
In fact, one of the reasons for greater challenge during the Ebola outbreak was none involvement of Social Sciences, especially Sociology, Psychology and Anthropology.
We almost repeated the same mistake with COVID-19. However, social sciences were given a chance this time albeit in the periphery of the response efforts to COVID-19. Even in the remote inclusion, social sciences have made the difference.
In the absence of a vaccine and treatment from the considered science of sciences, human medicine and technology, Sociology, Psychology and Anthropology have been the vaccine and treatment, at least for now.
Social distancing, washing hands, sanitizing, staying at home, quarantine, isolation, curfew, lockdown or shutdown, all answer to behavior change.
The latter is a domain of social sciences. The challenges we observe in non adherence, resistance to change and defiant by some people has answers in behavioural sciences. Behavioral medicine has truly been the champion since the virus broke out in Wuhan, China in 2019. This has made Social Sciences to reclaim its glory with regard to how relevant it still is based on the contribution it has made in understanding behavior in the mitigation of COVID-19.
This realization has made Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani in the Coastal Kenya to honour social sciences by including us in the training of health care workers in the coast region, the first of it’s kind in Kenya.
Training has been done to mitigate COVID-19 but focus has been on biomedical sciences, forgetting the social scientists who are keeping us afloat now in the midst of COVID-19 rough waters!
I would like to congratulate Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani for including me and others in the COVID-19 training as facilitators to train Health Care Workers in the region.
I am glad to have facilitated: COVID-19 Self Exploration; Stress Management in relation to responding to COVID-19 and Crisis Management: Communicating Risk and Crisis COVID-19 Information to Communities.
Finally, I wish to thank all fellow facilitators drawn from diverse sister disciplines, the health workers from across the region for their participation, sharing of experiences with regard to COVID-19 and their insightful engagements during the training.
I learned and I am sure they learned too. Let’s all unite and face our common global enemy that is threatening to reverse our civilization, COVID-19, without fear and discrimination, Indeed, we all have a role to play, let’s play it passionately.