Dr Timwa Lipenga and Dr Hendrina Kachapila

Lecturers win SSRC COVID-19 grant

Th­e research profile of Chancellor College continues to grow as two female academics, Dr. Hendrina Kachapila (Department of History) and Dr Timwa Lipenga (Department of French), have been announced among the winners of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Rapid Response Grants on Covid-19 and the Social Sciences.

­These grants are offered in partnership with the Henry Luce Foundation, and with generous support of the Wenner-Gren, Ford, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundations. ­This year, there were around 1300 applications, out of which 62 emerged successful. Each grant is worth not more than $5,000. Th­e grants offer research support for up to six months toward research-related expenses. ­These include, but are not limited to, access to data sets, archives and relevant publications, costs related to conducting online research of various kinds, and research assistance.

Th­e research project has sprung from a paper that the two lecturers developed for a conference presentation in 2017. When they saw the call for research ideas on innovative approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, they decided to collaborate in developing a proposal, which they eventually submitted to SSRC.

“Th­e project focuses on lessons that can be drawn from past epidemics in responding to Covid-19. Th­e lessons range from assessing the success for practices used to contain those epidemics, to an examination of the relationship between colonial administrators, health practitioners, and local inhabitants. Th­e researchers shall consult archival material and conduct interviews with major stakeholders in the present pandemic.

“What we observe is that there is an issue of power in relation to control of disease within different contexts, such as colonial Malawi. We are therefore interested specifically in government policies in controlling the spread of the diseases, as well as media coverage of the pandemics, across different historical periods,” the researchers said. Th­ey believe that their findings will inform the formulation of workable responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Malawi.

Th­e research is due to commence in October 2020, with a projected end date of March, 2021.