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‘How COVID-19 made me a hero’

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For 19-year-old Hassan Aminu, a Senior Secondary School Three (SSS 3) student of Government Science Secondary School in Gombe, the Gombe State capital, life has changed.

First for the initial fear of having contracted the Coronavirus disease (COVID) to becoming a hero of sort among his peers after recovery after he was pictured in national newspapers writing his first (Mathematics) paper at the start of the ongoing West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) at an isolation centre during the ongoing school certificate examination conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), which has turned him to an idol.

The Southern Kaduna reckoned that he must have contracted the disease during a trip from Kaduna to Gombe, even though fellow travelers like him in the bus he boarded were wearing nose masks. All he knows is that it was when he got to Gombe that he realised he had contracted COVID-19.

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Describing life at the isolation centre as cool and fine; just like a normal life, as medical attention and protection were guaranteed, adding: “The environment was blissful; medical routine was envious. In the morning, medical personnel hovered around, asking me to be calm; that it would soon be over and I shall return to school.

“They take my blood pressure at least two times daily and later administer drugs.”He recalled that the doctors always advised him not to be too bothered, but to relax, with assurances that he would regain his health.

After about three weeks, they collected his blood samples for tests and at the end, told him he was negative and free to go home. But he wrote his Mathematics, Chemistry and Agricultural Science examinations at the isolation centre, saying upon return to his school, his fellow students were happy to see hi and hugging him and rallied around him to share his experience with them.

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“As a matter of fact, they were all happy over my quick return to their midst. They never changed; in fact, they saw me as their hero. It elevated my status among my peers and the entire school,” he stated.

As for his parents: “When I called to inform them of my status, they merely advised me to take it as part of life experience. They assured me that it would go same way it came; that I should not be disturbed.”

Same for his teachers, who he said did not stigmatise him, adding: “In fact, the acting Principal addressed the whole school to inform them to reintegrate me. It was easy for me to be reabsorbed.”

But the initial reaction of the school authority to his status was to gather and isolate all his friends and test them for the virus for three days.

Hassan insisted that he no longer feel any COVID-19-related symptoms, no more strange feelings and he that now plays ball like before, as “I am now normal.”

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Asked if and how the disease and isolation affected his preparations for the examinations, he said: “Of course, it affected me greatly, as there was none of my colleagues to read and share ideas with. The emotional and psychological booster was completely missing.

“I just managed to be myself and write all I knew.”He stated that he missed his friends and their pranks while at the isolation centre, and the nurses’ motherly care and attention and, of course, the meals at the centre.

As a survivor of COVID-19, Hassan advised his friends and fellow students to always protect themselves with gloves and nose masks while going to places like markets and also regularly wash their hands and use hand sanitisers.

The isolation experience has reshaped Hassan, in a way, as: “I never believed I could ever survived isolation of any sort, COVID-19 pinned me to a particular spot for three weeks. Now, I know I can always survive isolation; now I believe it is possible to be at a place for over a day.”

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