Whenever COVID-19 comes up in any circle, the discussion tilts towards unemployment, sickness, depression and instability. For Zema Ali, the story is different. The 21-year old medical student at the University College Hospital, Ibadan says the lockdown was a period of development, transformation and accomplishments.
This interview has been edited for length.
Can you remember when you first heard about COVID-19?
I first heard about it in January. I however didn’t think much of it until the lockdown order came. Even then, I didn’t think we would stay home this long.
Did you have anything going on with you apart from academic activities before the pandemic?
Nope. It was just school for me. I had plans and ideas but I just never tried any out.
What have you been up to since March?
I have been up to design. Brand identity mainly. I took April to learn intensively, then I launched Blumotif.
Well that’s just something that comes easy to me. I am an artist actually, but it’s not often you get illustration jobs around here so I started designing instead.
How has COVID-19 affected your production and clientele base?
COVID-19 allowed for idle hands, and many ventured into design. The market got saturated and initially I wasn’t getting as much jobs. But then, I couldn’t back out, and over time I started getting more jobs. It’s still not as much as it would have been if there was not much free time on our hands. Social media helped get my work out there. I had a Twitter presence already so that helped with getting the memo out, that I was open for business.
How has COVID-19 changed your perception of life, education and entrepreneurship?
It turned me into an adult, apparently. Now, I cannot imagine that I lived this long without a side hustle. It also afforded me time to grow, and to see tertiary education as something I can actually do without. I also realised that entrepreneurship is not as rosy as it looks from the outside, but if whatever you’re doing is something you actually love, you’ll do great.
What are you grateful for in spite of the pandemic?
I’m grateful for the time, for new relationships I built and the things I got exposed to. Life away from regular medical routine helped me develop a part of me that seeks to take responsibility for my own actions and make decisions based on that.
Do you think anything will change with you whenever school resumes?
Well, when school resumes, I’ll get more serious with academic work, but I’ll still continue with my new-found passions. I’ll only have to reduce the intensity so I can have enough time to become a Doctor.
So far, how have you been keeping safe?
Oh well; the regular masks and hand washing. For anything else, we’re roughing it.
Though the pandemic was challenging, for Zema and some others, it has been pivotal to their success.