Indepth2020: Counting the costs of covid-19

The in-depth research project, Counting the costs of Covid-19, was produced by the 2020 career-entry honours in journalism class at Wits University.

The class of 16 student journalists was split into four groups and allocated a mentor to oversee their research and production within a specific sub-theme. The feature articles listed below are the result of six weeks of independent work carried out before November 15, 2020.

TEAM HEALTH (with mentor Laura Lopez-Gonzalez)

  • Life after death in the time of covid-19, by Catia De Castro, (with video):
    The covid-19 pandemic, and corresponding health restrictions placed on hospitals and funerals in South Africa, have completely changed the way we grieve and say goodbye to our loved ones.
  • The price of being superhuman in a pandemic, by Vetiwe Mamba, (with audio):
    The coronavirus pandemic has put immense pressure on healthcare systems all over the world and has challenged the mental health of frontline workers, who walk a fine line between life and death every single day.
  • High-risk private healthcare workers under the covid whip, by Tshepo Thaela, (with video):
    While the vulnerability of those over 60 and with comorbidities is being addressed, healthcare workers in the private sector now need to address the challenges of running their practices as they risk infection, see fewer patients and face losing their business.
  • Covid-19 survivors face long-term health problems, by Palesa Mofokeng, (with audio): Recovered patients might not regain their previous health, nor fully recuperate from the Covid-19 disease, medical research reveals.

TEAM EDUCATION (with mentor Lizeka Mda)

  • Teachers, the unsung heroes of the pandemic, by Niall Higgins, (with audio):
    Primary school teachers at government schools in Benoni and Actonville, Gauteng, have gone beyond the call of duty to ensure the class of 2020 have been protected, educated and well-nourished despite the threats of the covid-19 pandemic.
  • Life or school – a mother’s choice, by Akhona Matshoba, (with video):
    The instability brought about by the covid-19 pandemic has in significant ways compromised the schooling career and academic progress of children with special education needs.
  • Food first, education after, by Khuleko Siwele, (with video):
    The national lockdown caused by the covid-19 pandemic meant that the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) was suspended for the first time since its inception in 1994, leaving millions of learners in South Africa without the security of a daily nutritious meal.
  • Foundation phase teachers confront the unexpected, by Laura Hunter, (with video):
    Foundation phase teachers in South Africa have been left reeling after new teaching and learning adjustments, varying from school to school, were made as a consequence of the covid-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown.

TEAM JUSTICE (with mentor Sumeya Gasa)

  • Fight or flight for foreign nationals, by Zinhle Belle, (with video):
    The closure of borders and implementation of lockdown regulations to combat covid-19 in South Africa have had consequences for the wellbeing of foreign nationals, many of whom wrestled with the separation of their families and uncertainty over their migration status.
  • Sheltering the victims of South Africa’s ‘second pandemic’, by Emma O’Connor:
    “It was really challenging as many of the long-term shelters were closed and I had no more space to house these GBV victims, so all I could do was encourage the women to open a case against their abuser at the police station.” – Brown Lekekela, Green Door shelter.
  • It’s a life of shame, humiliation and stigma during covid-19, by Zikhona Klaas, (with audio):
    In South Africa, stigma and discrimination have mostly been associated with persons living with HIV and tuberculosis, but in the Mangolongolo community, Johannesburg, they are now also causing fear and panic among coronavirus survivors.
  • Human trafficking risks heightened in pandemic, by Dylan Bettencourt, (with video):
    The global coronavirus pandemic means the increased risk has brought with it fears that it might put vulnerable individuals and families are likely to beat greater risk of being trafficked. 

TEAM ECONOMY (with mentor Mfuneko Toyana)

  • Foreigners in Johannesburg struggle under pandemic regulations, by Zainab Patel, (with video):
    Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown have had a devastating impact on many business owners and employees. Included in this scenario are foreign nationals and undocumented people who have had to try to pick themselves up in usually packed commercial trade areas such as Fordsburg and China Mall, experiencing low recovery
  • SA’s NGO economy takes strain under covid-19, by Leah Wilson (with video):
    The economic effects of covid-19 on South Africa’s NGO landscape have resulted in community collaborations across Gauteng to overcome the challenges of the national lockdown.
  • Curtains close on ballet company as covid-19 takes centre stage, by Anna Moross, (with video):
    The Joburg Ballet has been on a journey of highs and lows through the covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, which have hobbled its ability to perform for live audiences while threatening a ripple effect on the arts economy of South Africa as the shadow of covid-19  looms over the future.  
  • Online shopping keeps students en vogue and in the money, by Thobekile Moyo, (with video):
    University students, who are expected to have low disposable incomes, are also self-proclaimed big spenders in the world of fashion. However, their love of trending fashion has also encouraged them to be entrepreneurs by contributing to thrifting culture.
FULL-DISCLOSURE: This project was undertaken with support from the Google Journalism Emergency Relief Fund, which allowed the student journalists to work safely under the conditions of the covid-19 pandemic. The project was coordinated by Dinesh Balliah. Bongani Khoza was the multimedia mentor and James Beaumont the sub-editor.