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Surviving a COVID-19 outbreak: narratives of lived experiences of adolescents at a Zimbabwean boarding school

This study will run from July 2021 to March 2022. It seeks to understand the experiences of adolescent girls at a Zimbabwean school during a Covid-19 outbreak and their associated isolation. The background to the study is that in April 2021, 294 of the 976 students at the school tested positive for the disease and were put into isolation to help stop the spread of the infection. Therefore the impact of social isolation on adolescents needs to be better documented, and there remains a significant evidence gap on their lived experiences during the pandemic. Usually, reaching such a population would normally require a large-scale household survey to identify and talk to them, whereas here we have a body of respondents under one roof, able to respond as either having had COVID, or not. The study will also explore the application of narrative methodologies through creative writing, as a way to help adolescents retell their stories of resilience and persistence, to find emotional release and build knowledge, and to make meaning of their lived experience. With this in mind, the learners will be asked to write a short essay in any form about their experience during the COVID-19 outbreak. The lived experiences of the learners will help us understand how adolescents fare when faced with the virus and the challenges of its containment. Documenting whether adolescents develop resilience and coping mechanisms in a pandemic and how they do so will help in the designing of appropriate services or interventions to support them through outbreaks.

Team:

Dr Hillary Musarurwa (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Professor Elleke Boehmer (University of Oxford, United Kingdom)
Dr Chris Desmond (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)

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