While millions of South African learners are terrified by the covid-19 pandemic, an 11-year-old cartoonist and entrepreneur has used the extended lockdown to create a cartoon series educating his peers about the new coronavirus.
Jan Louwrens, a gr. 5 learner from Paarl Boys’ Primary School in the Western Cape, added Captain Stay Safe to his already impressive range of robot characters. He could barely hold a pencil when he drew the first of the robots that would later be featured by his own company, Baggo Stonetrip. The business was named after a favourite robot toy.
He tells Food For Mzansi, “It is normal to feel a bit scared to go back to school in covid-19. I’m not looking forward to it myself. This is why I made these comics to help other kids stay safe. The coronavirus is really scary for everyone.”
During the lockdown the young inventor has found some escape in his business, which prints and sells T-shirts featuring his robot characters, like Marsmellow, Jagson and Bloodshrike. Around the country, kids and even adults who are besotted by the fictional world of superheroes and villains are wearing T-shirts featuring Louwrens’ characters. He has been coming up with new robots, each with their own backstory, and creating a comic book featuring his robots.
After being inundated by parents who were looking for covid-19 information in different languages, Food For Mzansi called on Louwrens to share “The story of the Battle of Covid-19 and Captain Stay Safe” in all 11 South African languages.
Food For Mzansi co-founder Ivor Price says, “For us, it was important to not merely translate information in languages such as Afrikaans, Zulu and isiXhosa. We wanted to fully understand children’s fears brought about by the pandemic. It just made sense to team up with Jan, a quirky robot inventor who has been making waves in the digital world.”
A new edition of “The story of the Battle of Covid-19 and Captain Stay Safe” will be uploaded on Food For Mzansi’s website and social media platforms every Tuesday. In the first edition the characters experience the realities of the lockdown and social isolation, which has been a rather stressful time for up to 99% of the world’s children who are currently living with restrictions on movement.
At this point in time, Louwrens had only been in grade 5 for two months before the lockdown kicked in. He says, “My friends and I really aren’t sure when we will be back in school. We are trying our best to keep up with all the homework from our teachers.”
Download the first edition of Captain Stay Safe in your language