Coronavirus themed comic book educates youngsters on the pandemic
Children might not have been the face of the global health crisis and have largely been spared from the direct health effects of Covid-19.
But experts across the globe have continuously warned the pandemic had profound effects on their well-being as some witnessed their loved ones getting sick or even experienced the death of a friend or family member.
For the first time in their young lives, they also experienced isolation as they were forced to be away from their schools, extra curricular activities and anyone who was not immediate family.
During this unprecedented time, youngsters also had to try and comprehend the importance of measures to prevent themselves and their loved ones from contracting the Coronavirus.
In a bid to simplify matters by presenting it in a manner in which children from all walks of life can understand, a South African online comic book, which follows the lives of local teenage twin sisters, has been launched.
It was created through a partnership between the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), the United Nations Environment Programme, Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), Plastics SA and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.
“The comic book is filled with colourful and engaging illustrations and content to help children understand why they should follow safety protocols in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr Anthony Ribbink, the CEO of the SST, explained.
“It follows the story of two twin sisters, Elli and Ella (16), who are trying to educate their families and friends about Covid-19 health and safety protocols, and to provide credible news to others.”
He added the idea behind the Coronavirus-themed comic book was to empower children with life-saving information during these uncertain times.
Ribbink said the global health crisis and subsequent lockdowns in most regions across the globe have not only been stressful for kids, but have disrupted their lives.
“Adjusting to new measures, like mask-wearing, social distancing, and sanitising hands may have been difficult for children, and indeed anxiety- provoking,” he said.
This was one of the main reasons behind the creation of the comic book, Ribbink said.
“To make Covid-19 related information accessible, meaningful and less daunting for the younger generation, SST and partners took the initiative to develop a comic which aims to help children navigate this unprecedented pandemic in an age-appropriate way.
“Furthermore, children, equipped with the correct information, may help empower other children to traverse this time.”
These sentiments were shared by the general manager of education centres of WESSA, Matthew Cocks.
“Children are full citizens, and yet important health and environmental information is not often relayed to them,” he said.
“Our partnership aims to change that, especially around Covid-19, because there is a lot of misinformation out there, and we want children to know the facts.”
While the captivating illustrations appeal to youngsters, the central themes align with information provided by global health authorities.
This includes the importance of wearing a face mask in public, maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 m from others, frequent hand washing and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces.
Other messages emphasised include reducing waste by avoiding single-use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as disposable masks and gloves and disinfecting or washing them after each use.
“What we really appreciate about the comics is the inclusion of information on the waste economy, special precautions we can take to treat waste at home and school and ways to protect waste workers,” sustainability director of Plastics SA, Douw Steyn, said.
While Cecilia Njenga, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme in South Africa, appreciates the educational value of the Covid-19 comic book, she also enjoys how it relates to kids.
“We love how the main characters in the comics, Elli and Ella, are so relatable and will speak to South African children in their unique contexts,” she said.
“Too often, health and environmental information is not geared towards the special circumstances of many children in low-to-middle income country settings.”
The comics are available and downloadable online.