By Lindeka Namba, School of Journalism and Media Studies student
After overcoming remote learning challenges and contracting COVID-19 in 2020, sheer determination and hope drove Luvo Mnyobe to graduate with a Bachelor of Journalism degree, against all odds.
Mnyobe arrived at Rhodes University in 2017 to study Journalism, with dreams of becoming a radio producer and talk radio host. This dream would take him on a four-year journey, ending in 2020 with him attaining his Bachelor of Journalism degree. Mnyobe completed a triple major in Journalism, Politics, and Sociology in his third year, while in his fourth and final year, he continued with Journalism, specialising in Television.
When COVID-19 cases started escalating in South Africa, and a strict lockdown was enforced, all university students had to leave campuses and go home as a precautionary measure. As a Rhodes University student, Mnyobe was forced to pack his bags and return to Gqeberha.
He explained how being at home during the mandatory lockdown period was unpleasant and difficult for him. “I longed to get back to campus,” he said. “It was very impractical for a TV student to study remotely because all of the software we require is on the campus computers.”
When classes moved online indefinitely, Mnyobe found it particularly challenging to cope, as the fourth-year Journalism and Media Studies course requires a lot of collaborative effort from students. “With remote learning, I felt that some discussions were a little inorganic and a bit forced at times,” he said. “I definitely would have struggled if I had to continue with distance learning, but thankfully I was invited back,” he explained.
Shortly after receiving his permit and returning to campus, Mnyobe started experiencing the common symptoms of COVID-19. Initially, he thought nothing of it and had hoped that it was just the common flu and it would pass. After many of his close friends also started showing symptoms within the same week, they all self-quarantined and hoped it was not COVID-19.
After developing the more severe symptoms of the disease, his increasing worry eventually landed him at the Rhodes University Health Care Center, where he got tested and received the much-needed medical attention he required.
When the test came back positive for COVID-19, Mnyobe admits that at times he was scared and had moments of doubt as to whether he would survive it. “My friends and I associated COVID-19 with death because of all the statistics we saw on the news,” he admitted.
With a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, Mnyobe had to go into mandatory isolation at a designated centre away from campus. It was during this time that a deep sense of loneliness overcame him. “The biggest challenge for me was the isolation and the idea that I could potentially die there – alone,” he recalled.
Another thought that Mnyobe struggled with was the possibility of others falling sick and possibly even dying after being in direct contact with him. “It was a really traumatic experience physically and mentally,” he said.
Mnyobe, who had to go into isolation for a total of three weeks, credits the strong support system of family, peers, and lecturers who encouraged him through this tough time. He commends his fourth-year Television lecturer, Alette Schoon, who went the extra mile and sacrificed her evenings to ensure that he was up-to-date with his schoolwork. His mother and brother also stood by him.“They were always there for me, making sure I was comfortable,” he said. “We grew even closer as a family after overcoming this challenge together.”
Having gone through such trying times, Mnyobe now has a deeper appreciation for his life. Its been almost eight months since he was released from isolation and declared COVID-19 free, and Mnyobe continues to live each day as though it was his last.
This year, he is back at Rhodes University to pursue a Masters degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He hopes to live long enough and be strong enough to fulfil his dream of becoming a writer, producer, and reputable news anchor.
“No one should ever take anything for granted,” he concluded.