TIANJIN, China — When Yang Zheyu arrived at Tianjin University this fall for the start of his first year, he had all the essentials. Winter coat. Dictionary. Four pairs of shoes. Toothpaste.
And a few hundred yards from his dormitory, in a cobalt-blue tent set up on the floor of a gymnasium, he had his mother at his beck and call, ready to bring him bowls of instant noodles, buy him soap and scrub the floor of his new room.
“I feel safer when she’s here,” said Yang, 18, from a central Chinese town more than 700 miles away. “I’ve never been away from home before.”
Yang’s mother, Ding Hongyan, a farmer, was one of more than 1,000 parents of the class of 2022 who camped out in tents this month to watch over their children as they settled into college.
The parents came bearing bags of sunflower seeds, Hello Kitty backpacks stuffed with toilet paper and unsolicited advice on a variety of topics: the acceptable price of steamed dumplings ($1.50), the most lucrative college majors (engineering was a favorite) and the appropriateness of dating (best to be avoided while studying).
Since 2012, Tianjin University, about two hours southeast of Beijing, has offered the “tents of love” for free with the aim of making it easier for poor families to take part in the move-in tradition.
But the phenomenon, which has spread to several universities across China, has prompted debate about whether parents are coddling the generation of only children born after China’s one-child policy was adopted in 1979, and undermining their independence. The policy was abolished beginning in 2016.
Older generations of Chinese, who suffered through extreme poverty and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, have criticized parents who make long, arduous journeys to live in the tents, saying they are raising children unaccustomed to hardship, or “little emperors,” as they are derisively called.
Younger Chinese, who grew up in China’s boom years, say they are decidedly self-sufficient.
“I will learn to take care of myself,” Yang said. “I’m not worried about anything.”
The debate over the tents, which has also played out online, reflects the rapid pace of change in China and the relative novelty of the college experience and its various rituals.
Many young people in China today are the first in their families to go to college. The government has opened hundreds of universities in recent years, and enrollment has surged, reaching 37.8 million students last year, up more than 20 percent since 2010.
At Tianjin University, parents said they had signed up for the tents because they were nervous about sending their children long distances and couldn’t afford accommodations in big cities. Many come from rural areas, where they work as farmers, teachers and construction workers.
Many families were lost amid the lakes and willow trees of Tianjin, one of China’s oldest universities, with more than 17,000 undergraduate students. The city of Tianjin, which overlooks the Bohai Sea, is a cosmopolitan port city, dotted with skyscrapers as well as churches and villas built by foreign powers that ruled the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Qi Hongyu, a kindergarten administrator from the eastern province of Jiangsu, said he had made the journey to Tianjin because he was proud of his daughter and wanted to see what the university looked like. “She is realizing my dream,” he said.
Qi, who grew up working on farms, said his daughter and her classmates had more comfortable lives than previous generations. But he said he hoped they would grow more independent by living farther from home.
“They grew up in greenhouses,” he said. “They have never experienced real life. They have always been studying.”
As dusk fell, hundreds of parents, blankets and pillows in hand, filed into a gym to stake out their territory, jostling for spots near the bleachers. They washed their faces and brushed their teeth in nearby locker rooms.
The gym echoed with a cacophony of dialects from across China, and many parents struggled to understand one another.
As they prepared to sleep, the parents talked about the best breakfast places and where to buy cheap bedding for their children’s dorms. They compared their children’s scores on the college entrance exam and discussed how to encourage them to go into high-paying industries.
Yang Luping, an English teacher from rural China, reminded her daughter that soon she would have to learn to do her own laundry now that she was in college. “I already know how,” her daughter, Lu Yizhuo, interrupted.
Yang is a self-described “tiger mom” who worked for years to ensure that her daughter got into a good university. When her daughter was young, she bought her Barbie dolls to encourage her studies. She sent her to boarding school and washed her clothes every weekend when she came home.
Yang refers to her daughter as a “gift sent to me by the heavens.” She said it was important that her daughter began the school year with a sense of support from her family.
“I want to be next to her to make sure she is safe and happy,” Yang said. “I always tell her that I wish that even in the next life we can be mother and daughter again.”
For many parents, having a front-row seat at move-in provided an opportunity to set a few rules.
Ding, the farmer, said she worried about how her son, Yang Zheyu, would fare in a city with so many skyscrapers and distractions. He came down with fevers frequently as a child. And he sometimes seemed addicted to his cellphone, she said, playing games and devouring sci-fi novels.
After the more than 36-hour journey by train and bus from their hometown in Hubei province to the tents in Tianjin, Ding offered some advice. No video games. No lazy friends. And no romantic relationships.
Yang, with thick black frames, a bright yellow T-shirt that said “RESURRECTION” and a faint mustache, looked skeptical. “That’s not necessary,” he said.
They agreed to disagree, and promised to stay in touch regularly by phone and by WeChat, a popular messaging app. So long as it did not interfere with his studies.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.