Mkonza Liphelihle – Advent Hope Christian School

Facemark blues and Covid stigma

A faulty themometer saw 12-year-old,  Mkonza Liphelihle, taunted and nicknamed Covid-19. My right to dignity was violated, writes Mkonza from Advent Hope Christian School in Hluhluwe.

Waking up on a day when Covid-19 is declared over will be dramatic. After waking up on that day, I will go house to house, home to home, collect all the face masks that people were using and put them in a big plastic bag. Thereafter I will make a big fire. I will make sure the fire is big. I will call many people to come and bid goodbye to this tormenting attire. I will put all the masks in the bonfire and watch them burn to ashes. I will say, goodbye ‘face mask’.

Yes, this day will arrive, I can’t wait to hear our president announce that Covid-19 is over.

The face mask, caused me trouble trouble one day. It was on the 13 July 2020, when I was tormented because of a face mask. I was very cold. I was almost freezing.

The screening lady at the gate of the school, checked my temperature and there was no result. The thermometer didn’t show a reading. She said I must go where there is sun so that I ‘recharge.’ I was embarrassed as my classmates burst into a laughter after that command. They laughed because they concluded I had Covid-19!

I stayed to one side aside ‘recharging’ as I was instructed. I remained the until everyone was inside the classrooms. I started to cry and the lady called me for another recheck. My temperature was read and I was fine. I felt some relief. The thermometer had failed to read my temperature at first and I suffered the shame of it! In the class all my friends had started already calling me COVID-19. This label should not be given to anyone in South Africa.

This stigma s something that should be avoided in future. My right to dignity it was violated because of this Covid-19 thermometer. In future, I think one’s temperature should remain a secret otherwise one loses their dignity easily through name calling by mischievous learners. Actually it is good to have our temperatures checked on daily basis even after Covid-19. This would ensure that all learners are healthy and there is no risk in schools. This may mean frontline workers should be trained well enough to protect the status and welfare of children.

  • This is a slightly edited version of Mkhonza Lipelehle’s entry to Roving Reporters journalism themed writing competition, Life After Lockdown – The Future We Want. Click here to read more shortlisted entries submitted by various schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. 

For adjudicators’ reference: Entrant 25_Mkonza Liphelihle



After the Covid-19 pandemic, will everything return to how it was before – or will we change how we live in the future? Will we realise the need to make this world a better place, both for people and for nature?

These are the key questions in Roving Reporters’ journalism-themed writing competition, Life After Covid-19 – The Future We Want, catering the school learners from Grade 7 upwards across the country.

The competition forms part of a broader reporting project supported by Super Save and Media Development and Diversity Agency.

“We are encouraging high school children to document their experiences of the pandemic and reflect on how they would like to see the world change for the better,” said Roving Reporters director Fred Kockott. “Reflection is a first step to change, and this project gives learners a voice and an opportunity to have some agency in how their future unfolds.”

We plan to run the competition through to the end of the school year, with a top entry published every fortnight.

Schools that wish to submit entries should click here to access the entry forms and writing guide to share with learners who wish to take part.

For further information contact Fred Kockott on 083 277 8907 or email

Now read: Poet’s take on life after Covid-19: “We fell asleep in one world and woke in another”